Life of Pi

Life of Pi


I read Life of Pi after the book won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002, and was struck (in a good way) by the philosophical content of the fiction. Embarrassingly, I have to say that the book is included in the list of half-reads: those that I enjoy but did not have the stamina to finish at the time. However, of the part that I did read, a passage has remained with me all through the years – the philosophical question about freedom by contrasting zoos and religion. That part is deeply ingrained in my mind so I had been excited and yet apprehensive at the same time when I heard that a movie translation would be released on New Year’s Day here in Australia.

Hearing that Ang Lee is the director of the movie eases my apprehension – the talented director is behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon andBrokeback Mountain, among others. I saw an interview of him in a local channel and was impressed on how thoughtful he was with his approach to the movie – and this made me eager to see the movie especially after hearing that the critics are generally favourable towards the movie.

I watched it today, on New Year’s Day on the earliest session at the cinema at 10.00am, after staying up after midnight on New Year’s Eve. Call me eager – or silly.

Let me start by saying that the movie is an exquisite visual feast – the 3D aspect of the movie is by no means gimmicky. Ang Lee manages to turn the technology to support his vision to turn a philosophical, internal story into something that is amazing to watch and experience. Some of the philosophical questions posed in the book are there in the movie as well – but those of you who are turned off by heavy concepts or discussions, should not shirk away from the movie. Go and see it as you will be rewarded by the movie. Truly, the movie is a gem!

The story is about Piscine Molitor (played by various actors: Gautam Belur, Ayush Tandon, and Irrfan Khan) – who prefers to shorten his name to a mathematical symbol of Pi after being relentlessly teased at school for his unusual name. His name is based on a swimming pool in France – but nobody in Pondicherry, the French part of India where Pi and his family reside, appreciates the name for what it represents. Pi’s father manages a zoo in the city and with funds running out, he opts to migrate to Canada to start a life with his wife and two sons: Pi and Ravi. Tragedy strikes when the ship carrying the whole family as well as the animal cargo sinks over the Mariana Trench. Pi survives on a lifeboat along with a zebra, an orang-utan, a zebra, and Richard Parker – a name that is given to a Bengal tiger. How he survives the ordeal physically and internally until he reaches land in Mexico is central to the story. What seems to be mundane – where-nothing-actually-happens – is turned into a visual and almost sensory feast, especially with the 3D images. Ang Lee has done this before by turning a short story into a major movie with Brokeback Mountain. If you have a chance, definitely go to the 3D screening, where you will be rewarded.

Life of Pi certainly doesn’t disappoint – in the hand of a masterful director, this has turned into a touching, enriching and thoughtful movie. It’s philosophical without being heavy, it’s funny and heartwarming without being silly – a genuinely luscious cinematic feast.

Treat yourself.






Published by fuzz

I've finally relented to the lures of blogging - and for those who care, well, I'm a self-confessed geek who's a wanderer at heart, who thinks and analyses too much, and who's trying hard to hold on to his 7-year old inner persona.

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  1. I’m surprised you liked it (as a religious person). Because the movie ends revealing that the real horrific story of the shipwreck is not the tiger story (God), and asks which would we prefer to believe. Of course, the child in us all prefers the fantastical Tiger/God story.

    That’s an argument for religion but also a reminder that we invent God.

  2. I actually didn’t see it from that angle at all. 🙂 If you recall the conversation at the end of the movie, Pi says that nobody can argue that the story didn’t happen at all – it’s just the angle and the way that the whole incident is seen that is different.
    Besides, I’m happy to keep my inner child – i.e. rather than knowing that the burst of Magnesium creates a green luminescence, I prefer to enjoy the firework instead. It fits with Matthew 18:3 “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

  3. Hmmm, Matthew also said we should abandon our family (Matthew 19:29) sounds like typical cult stuff to me… leave your family and don’t ask questions (be child-like).

    Back to the movie, my daughter cried and left due to the animals drowning and eating one another. Poor thing.

    I’m afraid that I too enjoyed it less than you did. Beautiful art direction (award worthy) and really thoughtful use of 3D (a first?), but it lacked emotion (when he got rescued did anyone in the audience care) and the philosophising was the sort that Hollywood thinks is deep – i.e. simple and pretentious.

    Someone in the audience shouted YAY when it finished. I had to agree – too long, often pointless. I’d recommend Skyfall as a better silly movie, it knows it’s silly and revels in it.–a-pity-the-narrative-of-life-of-pi-is-all-at-sea-8427929.html

    That said, most critics liked The Life of Pi – that’s why I went.

  4. The Tiger story can not be disproved in the same way you can not disprove God, but it’s a very unlikely story (A cannibalising island?). The only reason the Japanese officials ‘believe’ it is because the other story is so horrific. Sometimes life is horrific, hence people gravitate towards the nicer story of religion to provide hope/comfort.

    I thought it was a clever critique on religion, which I enjoyed, as I was fearing 2 hours of anthropomorphism and feel good spirituality.

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