I never thought that people in Hollywood would bother to put into film something as beautiful as Life of Pi (written by Yann Martel), a story about an Indian boy, Pi, from Pondicherry who survived a shipwreck and was stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize awardee book is indeed popular however, I never thought that it would reach this mainstream level with the typical Hollywood movies. But make no mistake; this film is no Hollywood trash. It’s almost like the kind of story Inception has: a story that’s intricate and disturbing that one wouldn’t think it could be translated into film and yet, it became so. The movie, Life of Pi, came into silver screen with a magnificent story that became even more splendid with outstanding direction and cinematography. I can’t imagine, though, if this film would be made by M. Night Shyamalan, as was originally planned…
It was said that this film tells of a “story that can make you believe in God”. I have read the book, and knew where it’s going, but with a line like this thrown every now and then to promote the film, I was afraid that the movie might take on the more religious perspective. I’m glad, though, that it has remained true to the book, even though there had been some more emphasis on the religious perspective in many points during the film. I would love it more if the “science” side of things were also given more exposure. If you’ll be reading the book, you’d notice that Pi learned a lot about animals and how they behave. He made his philosophical pondering around it but there’s as much as faith as there is reason in the book.
The audience will be left with this thought, even long after the end-credits have rolled: which story was true?
With the way the screenplay was written, the choice was given to the audience. One has to notice, though, how the two versions of the “truth” were put in contrast: the story with the tiger in it were told in vivid sequences and with outpouring of emotions while the story without the tiger was told plainly while 16-year old Pi was recuperating in the hospital, being interviewed by agents from the Japanese ship company (Suraj Sharma should get an award for his portrayal of young Pi in this film; it is no mean feat that a young actor such as he can hold an audience’s attention for more than 70% of the time of the entire film). This contrast between religion and reason were played again and again all over the movie: when Pi’s dad tells him that he cannot have three religions all at once and perhaps it would be better if he started with reason while Pi’s mother tells him that science can give the explanation to things but religion explains what the heart feels; his dad is a reflection of the new India while his mother would rather stick with the remnants of the past by pursuing the traditions of Hinduism.
For me, the message being sent across is this, to explain why there has two be two stories: with those who want to see things through reason, to learn of the truth is enough to give meaning to life; for those who need to see things through faith or religion, sometimes, the truth can be so unbearable that faith or religion can give that extra boost, the added spice, to make it a whole lot more palatable or bearable. Even if what faith or religion offers is not true in the strictest sense, for some people, it pushes them to do the extraordinary. On my part, though, why is there a need to delude oneself? Why do I need to tell myself that I survived a shipwreck with a Bengal tiger killing all the other occupants when it is not true? Am I not capable of accepting the facts that there had been horrible events that took place in the course of surviving such a disaster? Can I not take comfort in the fact that I have survived it despite all the hardships, the lack of resources, and seeming hopelessness?
Overall, this is a film that can leave you pondering for a while even after you have seen it. This is also a nice conversation piece among friends, believers and non-believers alike.