Movie Review: Life of Pi

Floating Pi

Normally I will review a movie on the day I’ve seen it, or at most, two or three days after… I saw Life of Pi about three weeks ago and am just now getting to the review.  There are a few reasons for this, mostly due to personal reasons that left me a bit cold in terms of writing anything, but also because I had difficulty wrapping my head around how I felt about this movie.  I didn’t dislike this film, but I can’t say I was crazy about it either.

I will begin with what I liked… it’s gorgeous.  Ang Lee knows how to make a pretty movie.  Beautifully filmed, fantastic acting by the young protagonist (Suraj Sharma), and a wonderfully elaborate look at what spirituality can mean for individuals without being too insistent on religious dogma… actually, there’s very little dogma at all.  For all of these points I must applaud this film.

Where I don’t applaud this film is in my own personal take away, which is that I believe this film was intended for someone who is searching in some way for their spiritual path.  I am not that person.  My search for spirituality ended years ago when I hurled myself off of the fence of agnosticism and into the pit of atheism.

After seeing Life of Pi, I began writing a review, then stopped… believing that I had not quite grasped the point of everything.  I then dug in a bit deeper into what the author, Yann Martel, of the novel the film was based on, intended for us to get from his story.  The only aspect that caught my eye, for obvious reasons, is that the author has no issue with atheism, because at the end of reason and logic the atheist must then make a leap of faith… a leap into nothingness, but a leap of faith nonetheless.  The agnostic is him view is the true spiritual coward… unable to make a decision one way or another.  Thus, Life of Pi is ultimately about making that spiritual decision for yourself… but a decision must be made.

I see the beauty in this idea… and I can get behind that.  Whether or not this film is directed at me isn’t really the point… was it a good film?  Yes, it absolutely is.

The basic idea behind Life of Pi is that a young man in India named Pi (the name is explained to wonderful effect), the son of a zookeeper, must travel from India to Canada with his family and ends up stranded on a life boat with a tiger named Richard Parker, a hyena, a zebra, and an orangutan.  Before their fateful journey, Pi learns about the dual nature of a life with and without spirituality from his parents; his father (Adil Hussain) who believes religion is darkness, his mother (Tabu) who holds onto her Hinduism as a tie back to her past and family.  Due to his questioning nature, Pi adopts the practices of Hinduism, Catholicism, and Islam… all at the same time.

Another gripe I had is regarding the structure of the film, and in this I am unsure as to whether or not the book employs this same structure, it opens in the present with an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) being interviewed by an author who states that Pi will convince him of the presence of God.  This structure eliminates any tension about whether or not Pi will survive the life boat and whether or not he comes to peace with his spiritual journey.  The answer to both is an unequivocal yes, and I find that deflating that tension immediately does not serve the film well.

I do have another complaint… but that would be delving into spoiler territory, and I imagine if you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s best to have some surprise.  The DVD will be released March 12, so perhaps we can discuss spoilers after that date… but if you are going to see this, I would highly recommend seeing this in 3D… that aspect of the film is spectacular, and for me, the only real reason to see this movie… unless, unlike me, you are in need of some sort of spiritual connection.  

I was hoping to step into this film and get a good cry out of it… a nice cathartic cleansing of my emotions… unfortunately, it didn’t produce a single tear… and I cry at cartoons for crying out loud!  I would say Life of Pi is a fantastic movie that in time will be looked back on fondly… but I don’t believe it has the emotional heft it was meant to have, and that may be an issue of media.  Perhaps the novel would hit me in a better spot.

I saw no pie,
Cornelius J. Blahg 

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