Jake’s movie review: The Life of Pi

Photo by Flickr user @Doug8888 used under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Jake O’Bannon, Columnist

It is hard to argue against a movie that wins four Oscars, including the award for best directing. Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” did just that last weekend. And trust me, there will be no arguments about its brilliance coming from me.

I must be honest with you though. I tried to watch this film once before and did not make it half way through. I blame it on my not feeling well and the late hour.

However, I still have had a negative view of it for the past couple of months. That all changed this past week when I took a trip down to your friendly neighborhood Cinemark Tinseltown for a matinee solo movie. 

The fact that I was sitting in a theatre by myself with 3D glasses on took me awhile to get over, but once I regained confidence in myself I was locked in for the next two hours. And if anything else, it’s the visual beauty of the film that will keep you interested. It honestly was the most visually beautiful film I have ever seen in theatres.

The story, based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel, tells of Pi Patel, a young and curious boy from India who finds himself thrown into an adventure that changes his life forever.

If you have read my reviews in the past, you will know that I like to find spiritual themes in just about any movie. And usually I do that even if I know that it is not what the director fully intended. Sure, my thoughts are far-reaching at times, but the spiritual themes in “Life of Pi” are put right in front of you, and as far as I could see, leave you with one distinct feeling – a renewed faith in God.

The story of Pi’s adventure is told through Pi himself at an older age, as he is speaking with a man who had heard about him and wants to know if his story can really “make [the interviewer] believe in God.” Flashbacks show us how it really happened.

Circumstance leads Pi stranded at sea in a boat with a Bengal tiger. This is obviously a dire situation, but it sets up perfectly Pi’s belief that, “You cannot know the strength of your faith until its been tested…Doubt is useful.” Pi came from a safe, comfortable environment and his world was rocked when the boat he and his family were riding sank at sea. His faith was tested.

The relationship between Pi and the tiger (who’s name is Robert Parker) is one of mystery and beauty. What starts as a ferocious beast becomes a beacon of hope for Pi. At one point he says about Robert Parker, “My fear of him keeps me alert. Tending to his needs gives me purpose…I would have already been dead without him.” Are you beginning to catch part of the message here?

There reaches a point where Pi believes there is nothing left, and he lets go by saying, “God, thank you for giving me my life. I’m ready now.” What Pi does not know is that it is not his physical life that he is giving up, but when he looked at Robert Parker and said, “We’re dying,” what was really going was his former life. It was in giving away his life that he received a new one.

After saying those words Pi wakes up and finds himself on an island. This island is not his final destination; rather it is what he believes a place where God gave him rest. Pi realized here that when you need it, God will give you the rest you need, rest that will allow you to move forward and not get stuck in the ruts that life can bring.

Ultimately, Pi and Robert Parker find their way to land. When in the hospital being revived, there are men who come to interview Pi to find out how the boat may have sunk. Pi tells them the story, and the men proceed to say, “We want a story that won’t make us look like fools.” These men were unable to believe such a fantastic, mystical story because they were not able to see it themselves. So Pi proceeds to make up an entirely new story to please them, and they leave.

The film ends with a conversation between older Pi and the man interviewing him. The interviewer asks which story was the truth, to which Pi says that the first one is the real story. The story where Pi went through incredible hardships and doubt, but found that God was with him all the way. He ends by claiming, “The tiger story is the better story.”

I believe, and I sense that the director of the movies believes, that the “tiger story” is the story of our walk with God daily. When we tell it to others we might get the response Pi got, asking for a story that makes us sound less foolish. To outsiders it is a hard story to wrap their mind around.

But when you experience it yourself – the unending hope and protection – you can’t help but believe. Take time to watch this movie and reencounter a God who never lets go.