If one film deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest films of this year, it’s the story of Piscine Molitor Patel and Richard Parker. In a film that is beautifully told, wonderfully acted, and visually stunning, we see their powerful, heartbreaking story.
Life of Pi is based on the best-selling novel of the same name. I knew nothing beyond that fact before seeing the film, however. I thought it was some strange book about math and wondered by Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning director of my favorite foreign film of all time (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), would bother with such a boring subject.
The film is anything but boring. It is a brilliant examination of life, meaning, the power of story, and the relationship man has with God. Framed in a narrative device that sets up the adult Pi telling his story to a would-be novelist, Life of Pi is simply the story of the pursuit of meaning.
It is a beautiful film to watch. Bright colors, deep imagery, stunning special effects used to better affect than nearly every other film this year, Life of Pi uses every possible combination of the filmmaker’s art to convey the deeper story behind Pi’s story.
As a boy, he has a father who has no use for religion, but his mother raises him as a Hindu. While growing up, he eventually discovers Christianity and discovers a deep passion for Jesus–he even thanks Vishnu for introducing him Christ–and finally encounters Islam. He embraces all readily for what they each contribute to his understanding, but mostly realizes that he is intended to be a vessel for whatever God has in store for him.
What God has in store is being stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a life raft with a vicious tiger known as Richard Parker. Through a series of amazing circumstances, Pi finds himself alone over the deepest part of the ocean with his only companion an animal that wishes only to destroy him. How will he react? How will he grow? How will he survive?
All of these are questions raised by Pi as well, and as the story unfolds we discover just what an interesting and deep story this truly is. The writer who is interviewing Pi is as flummoxed by the story as the viewer–as are the owners of the boat that sank, leaving him alone in the ocean with a tiger. What really happened out there?
The question Pi asks is a powerful one: “Which story do you prefer?”
Is the “factual one,” the one that makes sense logically the true story? Or is the truth the story that is harder to believe, more fantastical? That’s Pi’s response to not only his story (I won’t divulge what the “factual story” in Pi’s account is), but also his response to God.
You see, the real story of God isn’t one that can be told or understood in cold hard facts, but it can be told and understood in its heart, in the “realness” of faith. Life of Pi is a beautiful and entertaining film that doesn’t shy away from asking hard questions about life’s big things: llfe, death, redemption, faith. And it does so in a way that will have you agreeing with Pi:
The better story is the one I prefer.
Life of Pi is directed by Ang Lee and features stellar acting by Suraj Sharma as the cast away Pi. As the only person onscreen for a large portion of the film, the first-time actor gives a standout performance that deserves to be remembered come award season. Also of note is Mychael Danna’s score, which is evocative of the many amazing locales where the story takes place. It’s quite haunting and lovely.