Movie Blog: Life of Pi: Story of Faith and Hope

“I suppose in the end the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”

“Even if God seemed to have abandoned me, He was watching. Even if He seemed indifferent to my suffering, He was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, He gave me rest, and gave me a sign to continue my journey.”

When I saw the trailer for the movie, Life of Pi, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. It had a very intriguing basis with an excellent director, namely Ang Lee. Obviously I haven’t read the book so I didn’t really know what to make of it. However, if trailers are any indication of a film’s brilliance, then Life of Pi promises to be a captivating film that’s visually breathtaking. Thankfully, the trailer got it right.

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I hope everyone has had a chance to see Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. If you haven’t seen the film I recommend you do. I read somewhere that this was described as the film that was unfilmable, because the main characters are a boy and a tiger trapped in a small boat. But the filmmakers have worked their magic and it comes to life on the big screen. Lee has created a visually magnificent fable that transfers the book’s imagination to the screen.

Life of Pi opens in Montreal where an older Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) meets with a young writer (Rafe Spall) interested in hearing his life story. In flashbacks, we are taken back in time to young Pi’s youth in India. Pi’s insatiable desire for knowledge and understanding leads him to take a deep interest in Catholicism and Islam. When a teenage Pi (Suraj Sharma) is forced to leave India along with his family at his father’s request, the youth struggles to come to terms with an event that he has no doubt will change his life forever. Financial pressures force them to move, and at the age of 16 he boards a freight ship to Canada, along with his father, mother and elder brother. During the night, a torrential storm upends the ship, leaving Pi stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker and drama ensues!

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Yes, now you know why it is so intriguing. How a young man will survive on a small boat with a large tiger is a story that you don’t see every day. Taking the reins of this unique story is the talented Director, Ang Lee. Thanks to his steady hand, the film takes on a visually stunning perspective that’s truly a delight to experience. He is able to combine the calm beauty of nature with the vicious force of the elements. He is able to maintain the intensity of the story, but also mix some essential light-hearted moments.

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Life of Pi is without a doubt a visual feast, a film that revels in the art of storytelling. The film is just outstanding especially with its technical accomplishments. The visual effects just take the scenes over the top and create a fanciful world for its audience. The combination of Ang Lee’s ability to create an enthralling story, an excellent narrative that keeps you on your toes, and special effects that weaves masterfully with reality makes the Life of Pi movie a tour de force, and definitely one of the best movies of the year. In most cases, movies that focus on being a spectacular visual feast usually lack in other aspects like acting and story. However, in Life of Pi, the plot and the acting are the real spectacles and it is amazing to see all these elements play out on the silver screen. The pacing of the film starts out a little slow. Nothing really happens in the first 15-30 minutes but things take a huge leap the moment Pi starts talking about his adventure with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.

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But of course, visuals aren’t everything about a movie or otherwise Avatar would have actually been a good movie instead of a derivative bore. What about the story? The story in terms of plot is as simple as it can get. Boy and tiger get stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean, boy tries to survive. A simple plot which is what it should have been. The thrust of the movie is the journey of self exploration that the boy goes through as he reflects on the meaning of truth and the existence of God. The journey with him as we try to unravel the answer to the deepest questions about life. These questions about the role of religion in our lives are the main draw of the movie. And personally speaking, being someone less religiously inclined, I was very impressed with the answer the movie came to.

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Life of Pi is full of questions that the movie does not seek to answer. Pi gave two stories about what happened to him after the ship sank. One was fantastical and practically unbelievable with tigers and flying fish and floating islands that devour animals (carnivorous island). The other is more sensible and reasonable. The question is which story is TRUE? I honestly was quite taken aback by some of the late-game twists in the story, and I was left with a nagging, persistent feeling of “wait, what?” after seeing the film. What did it all mean? However, the answer is it doesn’t matter. Regardless of which is true, the ship still sank and Pi still lost everything especially his family. Some claim that the movie tries to convert people into believing in God or to turn people away from God. I believe the story is about it’s up to you to choose what you want to believe. Faith cannot by definition be proved or disproved as neither of Pi’s stories could be proved or disproved. But regardless of which is true, they’re all in effect telling the same story, they’re all sides of the same coin, and they’re all different paths that are diverged yet eventually intertwine into the ultimate conclusion. What you choose to believe is up to you, there’s nothing wrong with picking the story you’re most happy with and we should all respect each other’s decision on which story to believe in. If more people acted like this, the world would be a much happier place.

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For me, the most powerful moment of the Life of Pi is when Pi finally make landfall and the tiger disappears into the forest without so much as a backwards glance. It’s such a simple, graceful expression of man’s desire to project humanity onto an indifferent universe. Moments like that only serve to make the clumsy, forced ambiguity of the ending all the more frustrating. Richard Parker…..Oh! Is a beautiful, magnificent, magestic tiger and is the most fierce and beautiful creature you’ve ever laid your eyes on. He’ll make you love him and hate him at the same time. But, still you’ll find yourself defending him when he’s in need. You will feel the urge to hold him in your arms and love your pet even more. I’ll ruin the spoiler for you; he does not die in this movie. So be happy!

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Another of its strong points, the story delves into areas of faith, hope, belief, determination, courage and struggle. The strong script and pacing keeps the film together, doing away with the possibility of boredom especially since we see no one else than Pi, the tiger and the sea for most parts of the movie.

There are a lot of breathtaking moments with wide shots you’ve never seen before in cinema. The water reflecting the sky, the absolutely beautiful lighting, the lush and rich islands and the very well made animals. I swear at some points I didn’t know if Richard Parker (the tiger) was real or not and I didn’t have to know because it didn’t matter. It all looked so great on screen.

In Life of Pi, you are given the opportunity to “Believe the Unbelievable”. The story teaches us how to survive even at the worst situation. God’s will is always unpredictable. Just when we lose hope, He makes us assured He is watching and is there to help us, thru human or animal or something else. God never gives us challenges which we cannot face. And in this story, God never left Pi alone even when he thought he was abandoned. God gave him all the strength and courage to move on and survive the trial, in the form of the tiger, his only companion throughout the journey. It wasn’t just beautiful but there were a lot of moments where I felt tense. I really do not know how Ang Lee and his crew managed to overcome all the technological hurdles in making those tense scenes and how the actors did such a great job at complementing them.

Overall, Life of Pi was a great movie. It had amazing graphics and visual flare. It had a decent and touching story. For the most part, the acting was great. The film’s casting was perfect. The dialogue was convincing enough. The story is very appealing. Viewers get to feel a wonderful mix of emotions — happy, sad, scared, inspiring, even an overwhelming feeling of…I don’t know exactly Haha :) It’s a great movie to watch! Beautiful cinematography, elicits different emotions, and it spiritually touches you :)

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