LAKE OCONEE — “Life of Pi”
Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.
Life of Pi is based on the phenomenally successful novel of the same name by Canadian Yann Martel. It is a spiritual novel. I write “spiritual” rather than “religious” because the main character is a Hindu-Muslim-Catholic and forever on a quest to find the Loving God and all the unanswerable questions that go along with his real and metaphysical journey.
The Indian boy, born in what was then French India, grew up in a zoo owned by his father along with his mother and older brother. He was named, unfortunately for him, after a French swimming pool, Piscine Molitor. Hence, his school mates mocked him unmercifully. Need I go further in explanation?
One summer, out of desperation to rid himself of his “original sin,” he was reborn as Pi, the mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, numerically shortened to 3.14. In short, he transformed himself, self-christening in a manner of expression, converting from Piscine to Pi, ridding the shame, placed upon him by his family, albeit unwittingly. I could go on with this metaphor, but I don’t want to commit the sin of self-indulgence…and lose the attention of my readers.
So, Pi goes on his exploration of the sacred until his father decides to move the zoo to Canada. And they pack the critters and family on a Japanese freighter which tragically sinks. Pi survives in the Pacific for 227 days. What happened is the very soul of the novel and the film. And, for your pleasure, there are two versions, one of which involves a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger; the other version may not.
As to which story is true, is a matter of faith and choice, as in all things spiritual.
Ang Lee directed Life of Pi. I really was not a fan of his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; I was a tiny minority, I know. But I thought Life of Pi was visually attractive, beautiful even. To me, Mr. Lee redeemed himself for making that travesty, Hulk.
Filming an ethereal book is nearly impossible. He could have taken the easy way out and simply eviscerated the novel, chomping it up for bait, if you will, but he did not. I know this because after viewing the film, I came home and did something I never do; I read the book. (I prefer my books to be non-fiction and my fiction on film.) Sure Mr. Lee moved a few things around, but he captured the soul of the book, no mean task that.
I was charmed by the movie and the book, and, oddly enough, while I type this on my laptop in my home office, in my cozy retreat, my personal chapel for thought and creation, where food is amply available along with the ability to control the environment, I become even more converted to the theology of Life of Pi; Pi who had none of these comforts on his journey, is a disciple, of sorts, for the human desire to see base animal instincts on a higher plane---a plane where the air is too thin for reality.
It is a serene story but without the gagging, suffocating sweetness of fairytale fantasy. There is the stain of cruelty in the Life of Pi, both human and animal, but not so blatant as to pain the senses.
Pi’s story, we are told, will “make you believe in God.” Of this, I am not so sure, but it may make a thinking person understand, and believe, in the spiritual value of storytelling. “This story has a happy ending.”
Or so it is printed in Life of Pi. For the record, I agree.
Life, like spirituality, is a matter of faith and choice. Life of Pi whispers to us see that spirituality just may involve a tiger, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, a boy named Pi, and God.
It is up to you to find truth and the happy ending.
Life of Pi is blessed, by me, with four and a half bow ties out of five.