The holiday season brings with it some great films. This year has some promising titles. Ang Lee, the acclaimed Director of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain” adds to the season with his latest film “Life of Pi“, a truly phenomenal story based off the book by Yann Martel. I have read the book, and therefore had a good amount of expectations when coming into the theater to see this. I have to say, this film delivers!
The story follows Pi Patel who lives with his family in India. His father owns a zoo, and so he is constantly exposed to animals. Pi is curious about religion and in discovering God in his life, so he explores many religions. His father warns him about being a part of more than one religion, and even religion in general, stating that science has shown humankind more than religion has. This is not good enough for Pi as he continues his exploration of religion. Later, his family comes across hard times and they are forced to sell their zoo. They bring the animals aboard a ship that they are taking to Canada, where they are moving. They are going to sell all the animals. Once on board the ship, a very large storm hits, and the ship sinks. Pi gets aboard a small boat off the side of the ship. The only problem is that there are animals on the boat with him, including an adult tiger. What ensues is a journey of self-discovery and a story that will “make you believe in God.” This film worked on so many levels for me. It is absolutely gorgeous to watch. Ang Lee has a true gift in the way that he visually presents his stories. This whole journey we go on with Pi is really brought to life by the images we see on the screen. The colors are very rich, and the whole film seems like a dream sequence, as there are some pretty fantastic moments. But that really is the basis of the story he tells, a story that is hard to believe. But I love that the film (and the book of course) don’t give any definite answers as to what really did or didn’t happen. It allows for the viewer (or the reader) to discover for themselves what really happened.
It is interesting to see the evolution of Pi’s character as he continues in his time of desperation to search for God. I really feel like he finds Him in his journey. The tiger whom he calls Richard Parker (it’s funny how that name came to be) allows for Pi to face his fears. He breaks down the fear that was built up through experience with what is seen as “dangerous”. Back at the zoo, Pi almost gets his arm ripped off by Richard Parker. His father teaches him a lesson by forcing his son to watch Richard Parker attack a goat. He tells his son that the tiger is not his friend. But the bond that they develop on the boat really does break down the walls of fear, and allows for discovery of friendship in the most unlikely of places and situations.
This film really caused me to take a step back again, just as I did when I read the book, and ask myself some pretty important questions, such as where my relationship is with God and how I “believe”. This film should not be missed.
-David B. Harrington