LIFE OF PI
I took an Indian literature course with Sandra Looney this past fall, and the class required students to view several Indian films throughout the semester. Since I enjoyed most of the films—although, I’ll admit some of them were more scandalous than others—I figured Life of Pi would be a nice addition to my Indian film repertoire.
And I was right. Life of Pi soared above and beyond my expectations, and far exceeded any precedence established in Looney’s class.
Prior to seeing the film, I had minimal knowledge of the plot. I knew it involved an Indian family traveling to Canada, and somehow a shipwreck led to the youngest son, Pi, and a tiger sharing a lifeboat, miserably lost at sea.
I didn’t realize, however, that Life of Pi has an ever-so-subtle way of mixing the fantastical with the realistic, blurring the line between what’s real and what’s imaginary and ultimately questioning religious orientation and faith.
The time that Pi spends on the lifeboat with the tiger—humorously given the very human name, Richard Parker—is dreamlike. As the two float over some of the deepest parts of the Pacific they encounter glowing jellyfish that illuminate the ocean, flying fish that feed the duo, a jumping whale that disrupts the power struggle on the lifeboat and a mysterious floating island that restores Pi’s will to survive. Preposterous? Definitely.
Yet at the end of the film when the details of Pi’s survival are questioned, I found myself wanting to believe Pi’s surreal account versus take the side of the stern, logic-seeking inquisitors.
Does the truth matter if the story is told in good faith? That’s up to the viewer.
No matter what truth is actualized by the end of the film—because each person takes away something a little different—one thing is certain: Everyone I talked to prior to seeing the film described it as “good,” but rarely elaborated beyond that.
At first the lack of explanation was a bit unsettling. Whenever I watch an excellent film, I tend to blather on and on about ‘why it’s so wonderful’ and ‘how it’s so captivating.’ But when it came to Life of Pi, “good” was the best description I received.
Yet the overwhelming critical acclaim—along with my experience in Looney’s class—was enough to persuade me to view the film. After all, Life of Pi won Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures and Best Achievement in Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, and an additional seven nominations. These awards speak to the well-rounded nature of the film and rightfully recognize it as a cinematic masterpiece.
So I’ll end with this: Life of Pi is a good film. Go see for yourself.