Life of Pi
Spoiler alert: for the full discussion to be effective it was necessary to give some of the plot away…
I had wanted to see this movie for months and finally on Sunday I was able to rent it off of Verizon FIOS pay per view. It was a fascinating movie in many respects and I was certainly happy and glad to have seen it by the time it finished. It is very philosophical in addition to being wonderful for the sheer beauty of the film presentation.
The opening credits set the stage with a very vividly colorful introduction to some of the animals that are members of Pi’s family zoo. The story begins in Pondicherry, India, apparently the formerly French portion of that country. ( I love films set in India, because it is always an opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of all the colors of that country. I’ve never been, but I imagine the backdrop of near constant sunshine (except in the Monsoons) with all the gorgeous colors of the silk saris, spices and vegetation).
But back to Pi. Pi got his name because of a story of a swimming pool in France that had been told to his father (Pi is short for Piscine). I think it may be foreshadowing or some other literary trick given that he ends up in the ocean for the majority of the film. But Pi has a relatively nice childhood and develops an interest in God via his study of three separate religions: Hinduism, Catholicism and Islam. The religiosity is an undercurrent in the film, but is never in your face to the point of being annoying. It is there to set a stage for the ordeal to follow. Incidentally, Pi is wonderfully acted by Suraj Sharma.
Despite having a somewhat idyllic life living in a nice home on the site of a botanical garden turned family owned zoo, the family decides to emigrate to Canada. The animals are all packed up on a freighter type ship and the family sets off on their journey. There is a storm at sea and the ship begins to sink. Pi is able to narrowly escape onto a lifeboat and is soon joined by an injured zebra and later a violent hyena and a docile orangutan. All were animals from their zoo. Soon, the family’s tiger “Richard Parker” is able to join the lifeboat too and promptly eats the hyena which had violently killed both the injured zebra and the orangutan, sadly.
Pi is faced with survival at sea in the lifeboat with that Bengal tiger. I believe that some of the scene is computer generated when it comes to the tiger. Pretty amazing stuff. And again, always so vivid and colorful. Really masterfully done…
Pi keeps sharp floating in the Pacific by having to avoid being eaten by Richard Parker. He figures out how to fish and he takes care of Richard so that Richard’s needs are always satisfied – diminishing the need for him to attack Pi. But it is good for Pi to be engaged, otherwise, he surely would have gone mad at sea. After a while, Pi figures out how to dominate Richard to a certain extent. They eventually get very weak and there is a tender scene when Pi tries to comfort Richard as he lay dying….I was crying like a baby.
The story is narrated by a middle aged Pi who is now a professor in Canada talking to a man (Rafe Spall) sent to him by an old family friend who is attempting to write a book and wants to use Pi’s survival story. Pi promises that by the end of the tale he will make the aspiring author believe in God….
One realizes by the end that the belief comes by understanding that not everything that seems unbelievable needs to be explained, that some things are best accepted on faith….I think also, the work of God is present in helping Pi to survive the ordeal at sea. I read a nice blurb on it all here:
Now, I left a few parts out on purpose, just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Ang Lee did a remarkable job with this film. I will acknowledge that at times it is a bit slow, that is my only real criticism. Otherwise I thought that there are many reasons why this is a great and very enjoyable movie.