Which Story do You Prefer?

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.


  1. […] 2. Life of Pi — it’s the most visually stunning film of the year, and features one of the best performances of the year by first-time actor Suraj Sharma who is virtually alone for 2/3 of the film.  It’s also a powerful examination of the power of story, faith, and identity.  For more thoughts on this film, read my recent review here. […]

  2. The point of the story seemed, to me, to be that whatever story about God that we like is the one we should accept. This is a popular message with the pluralistic world which says that whatever works for you is fine for you, and whatever works for me is fine for me. There is no ultimate truth, only an expedient delusion. Knowing Ang Lee (and Yann Martel for that matter) I believe that this is how they look at the world. As Oprah says it, god is on top of the mountain and whatever route you choose to climb the mountain is equally good as any other route, because they all end up in the same place. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, presented a gospel which is narrow and exclusive. He is the only way to God. If there were many ways, then God sent His son to suffer and die to provide one more way to Him. That would be a needless and cruel redundancy, not a loving God reaching out to save people who would otherwise be eternally separated from Him.

    • I agree that that is exactly what the story says, but I appreciate the bigger conversations a story like “Life of Pi” brings to mainstream culture.

      I disagree with their premise. As a Christian, I believe there is only one true Story. But if a film can help us engage others to think about faith, it excites me and I find it encouraging.

      Thanks for reading, Don!

      • Yes, it does give an opportunity for those who are prepared to take it. You could, for instance, point out that the question to ask is not “Which story do you prefer?” The right question to ask if you are seeking God is “What is true?”

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