A slice of Pi

Richard Parker & Piscene Molitor Patel (aka Pi)
What would you do if you were lost at sea?

In the past week, Deric and I went to catch the movie Life of Pi at GSC, thanks to some free tickets I received at work.

I was rather keen to see for myself how good the movie was as my parents – who very seldom make trips to the cinema for even the most raved about movies – surprised me when they informed me that they had in fact gone to see this one and had really liked it.

Here are some of my own thoughts and opinions on this movie:

Prior perception 

Before I had actually watched the movie, my expectations were that it would of an inspirational nature and that it would be in a format similar to that of Forrest Gump or Big Fish. I also knew that it was based on a book which has been in print for a number of years. (However, I do regret to say that I have yet to actually read the book for myself). I had also seen the trailer while at the cinema in months past, and what I do remember is scenes of epic proportions and glimpses of a tiger.

Overall impressions

I’m no expert in film, but I what I can say is that the depiction of Pi’s story was vivid and quite captivating. Even if you had no prior interest in a place called Pondicherry or the kind of people that came out of it, you would find yourself intrigued enough to want to know more about it all as you watch this movie.

The wide range of colours and themes exhibited in this film is also interesting, I find. There are a good number of memorable scenes which are distinct enough to be embedded in my memory for the longer term.

Besides that, natural phenomena which were depicted on the screen felt real enough to the point I felt I might drown soon into the depths had the monkey, zebra or even Pi himself kicked me off the boat.

Plot dissection

To be fair, I really ought to read the book before commenting on the movie plot. But on the basis of going in blind, I’d say it was a good story which raises the question: What would I do if I were in his shoes?

I don’t often cry while at the movies, but I did shed a tear or two for this one. The character of Pi was believable and very much down-to-earth that I imagine most members of the audience would likely identify with some of the traits that Pi had: a searching soul, an inquisitive mind, a resilient spirit, a heart anchored by home.

By virtue of this being a film, I guess it is somewhat limited in its ability to fully convey the feelings and thoughts of Pi as he undergoes the experience of being lost at sea. I expect the book may do a much better job with this, since so much more can be said in printed words than can be shown visually through the actions of Pi. That being said, having Pi read entries from his handwritten diary and listening to him narrate the rationale behind his actions and plans does help to give the audience some insight into what internal emotional battle he is waging.

Personally, I half expected some form of magic to permeate through the plot. For instance, I thought Richard Parker might actually be able to speak and reason with Pi while they were out at sea, and that in some manner, they would form a much more meaningful friendship than what can be typically expected between a man and a beast.

I also thought the island on which Pi had a brief stay on might actually give him an opportunity to meet someone else – perhaps of a divine nature – that could help him make sense of the tragedy that had plagued his life.

Another thing about the overall story line is that I felt it did not adequately resolve Pi’s thoughts on God and religion. I do understand that this is a sensitive topic to broach, but since it had been already present in the story, I would have thought I would be able to come away from the movie with some heightened awareness of God or some controversy to debate over with Deric, but none actually came to mind.

The final scene in which Pi asks the novelist which of the two versions of his tale at sea did he believe is nonetheless poignant. However, I am still left wondering what Pi meant when he responded, “And so it is with God” when the novelist chose the version with the tiger (aka Richard Parker).

I would have also liked to know more about the relationship between Pi and his brother, Ravi or even between Pi and his father, which was briefly developed but to me, not fully explored.

Another interesting angle would be how the story had impacted the life of the novelist after he had heard the tale from Pi. The movie ends as Pi introduces the novelist to his family, but it does leave me wondering what will happen next.

Lessons learnt

I find it quite thought provoking that Pi did not abandon his faith in God throughout his ordeal at sea. Even at his lowest point, he cries out, “I surrender”. Perhaps, as a Christian, these sort of reactions pull at our heartstrings, because deep inside, we know that this is how God would have us respond in our moments of crisis. I wonder what my reaction would have been if I should lose my entire family and life as I know it now in the blink of an eye, the way Pi had.

Turning my attention to the tiger, I’d say, there are most definitely ways to tame a tiger. Figuratively speaking, this could refer to any form of suffering or unwanted circumstances faced in our lives. While its presence, like Richard Parker, may seem on the surface to be painful and undesirable, yet perhaps in our attempts to “tame” it (or rather, live with it) we may find that there are invaluable lessons that it may teach us in return. And maybe, it may someday disappear just as suddenly as it came, the way Richard Parker leapt into the forest and out of Pi’s sight once he had made it back to safe shores.

I find it interesting to note also that there were several other ways that Pi could have died besides being eaten by his beloved Richard Parker. According to an article entitled 10 Worst Ways to Diehe could have just as easily died from starving to death, dehydration, hypothermia or getting devoured by the hyena. But nothing killed him. Makes you wonder what God had in mind by keeping him alive. Sometimes when we want most to die, God seems to disallow it. There must be a reason. Something worth pondering about. 

The inquisitive and open attitude that Pi had towards religion and God and his eventual personal journey of discovery also brings to mind the fact that perhaps it’s okay to let people find their own way towards God. Yes, we have our successful methods and such, but if God is truly God, no matter which route a person may take, ultimately it should lead them to the same conclusion about Him.

*     *     *

I’ve said quite a bit as it is. Perhaps this doesn’t really qualify as a good movie review, but I guess I just wanted to share how the movie had affected me. As an occasional poet, I generally like seeing the reactions of others towards a literary creation of mine and I presume film makers and artists would feel the same.

Well, I hope this benefits you readers out there. Do catch the movie, and see for yourself if it moves you in any way or if it triggers thoughts of God and how you may like to relate to Him.

 

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