Life of Pi is a feast for the eyes. The imagery is fantastic, and the special effects amazing. Oscar material, indeed!
Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, and directed by Ang Lee, Life of Pi is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper.
Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge Japanese freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.
The hyena kills and eats the zebra. The hyena mortally wounds the orangutan, and the tiger kills and eats the hyena. Pi tames the tiger. When they reach dry land, much to the distress of Pi, the tiger walks off into the jungle without a backwards glance.
In the hospital, insurance agents for the Japanese freighter come to hear his account of the incident. They find his story unbelievable, and ask him to tell them what "really" happened, if only for the credibility of their report. He answers with a less fantastic but detailed account of sharing the lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship's cook. In this story, the cook kills the sailor to use him as bait and food. In a later struggle, Pi's mother pushes him to safety on a smaller raft, and the cook stabs her as she falls overboard to the sharks. Later, Pi returns to grab the knife and kills the cook.
On processing my viewing of this film, my mind came up with the following: The human mind is an amazing instrument. In the face of the horrors of life, it creates a magical story that allows it to continue living with truths it otherwise might not be able to accept. The struggle for existence, the struggle for survival, the inner strength we have to find and tame before we can become master of our existence, are all realities we have difficulty admitting.
The two sides of life, one positive, feeding and renewing us, the other negative, poisoning and destroying us, and the choices we have to make regarding them, are also hard to face. In the film, I saw this as represented by the island Pi and the tiger found and rested on, but ultimately had to leave.
It seems to me that all our dreams, ideologies, the utopias we build in our minds, come out of our denial of the reality of life as it truly is. We often prefer our magical thinking to accepting and facing the reality of our own lives, as did Pi. In fact, often we need it, as it helps and comforts us and allows us to survive.
Which story did you prefer? What was your interpretation of the story? Who was the tiger? Why was Pi so devastated when the tiger walked off into the jungle without looking back at him?