Life of Pi

Picture Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Picture Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

I had never read the book Life of Pi.  I remember seeing it on the shelves at a past job.  Always tiding up around it, this book was surrounded by self help books so I had always assumed it was that type of book.  This was also before I really started to get into reading.  When the previews and posters for the film started to pop up, I remembered seeing the book and wondering what type of story they would create from this self help book.  Boy was I wrong.

Life of Pi tells the story of Piscine Molitor Patel.  The story is told by Pi grown up, to an author who was told that Pi has an amazing story for him that would make him believe in God. The story starts at the beginning of Pi’s life and tells us how he got his name. During his childhood he was made fun of for having a name that sounds like pissing.  Through the use of the mathematical symbol he tries to take on the nickname Pi.   The story follows his childhood as he learns of new religions and begins to study them and practice.  His family run a zoo, but after the war his father decides to take the animals to Canada and sell them to make a better life for his family.  During a storm the ship carrying his family, other passengers and all the animals sinks.  Pi and a couple animals make it on to a lifeboat, making them the only survivors.  Through animal instincts and hunger, Pi is left with only himself and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.  The two of them fight for survival in the middle of the ocean on the life boat.  Pi must face the ocean, the sun, sharks and hunger, as well as a fully grown tiger! 

His journey is astonishing, full of immense obstacles and unbelievable sights.  In the end, Pi tells us how he had to tell his tale to the investigators of the ship.  They wanted to know what had happened to have caused the ship to sink.  Pi told them his unbelievable tale, and they were very sceptical.  They needed a story they could bring back that was believable and that would explain why the ship sank.  Pi retells the story which has many connections to his original tale.  It is raw, savage and does not have the wild tales as the first.  Neither story explains why the ship sank.  In the end, Pi asks the author which tale he preferred.  The author tells Pi that he prefers the original story, and with that we are left to wonder which was the real story.

I watched this movie TWICE and still at the end of watching it the second time I was just as confused as I was the first.  After some good discussions I started to wonder on the theme and about the two tales.  The first tale involves wild animals and a strange island.  The second tale is short, but tells us of people, human nature, and ultimately fear, survival and cannibalism.  I’ve come to the conclusion that when Pi asks which story the author prefers, he is asking what type of reality he wants to live in.  The first story is fantastical and heartbreaking with animal’s and their survival instincts.  The second tale tells of men, murder and cannibalism.  Both tales have so many parallels that the people in the second story can be connected with animals in the first.  To me, the story with the animals killing each other is sad, but an easier tale to swallow. Animals kill other animals all the time for survival.  The story with the savage people trying to survive is gruesome and unpleasant.  In a way I think it is asking if we want to hear the truth, or a lie.  In the end we don’t know which was the real story and it is left for your own self reflection and speculation.

I enjoyed the movie much more after the second time I watched it.  I think having so much confusion after the first time really put a negative cloud over my head when thinking of this movie.  If you watch it and have the same opinion about the film, perhaps you need to give it a second chance.  I would recommend that you check out this movie, and the book would be a great companion, however it does not make the ending any clearer.



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