Where This Meets That
Previews for Ang Lee’s acclaimed film Life of Pi reveal it as a stunning visual odyssey. But my question going in was, beyond the luminescent whales and psychedelic bubble constellations, does the film have a soul?
In many ways, Life of Pi reminds me of Tim Burton’s 2003 Big Fish, one of my favorite films. It’s about life viewed through mystical eyes. There is laughter, heartache, depth, and, indeed, a soul.
Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel and tells of a family who owns a zoo but is forced, for financial reasons, to relocate it from India to Canada via oceanic freighter. Disaster strikes en route, sinking the ship and killing the family of the title character, Pi.
Pi finds himself stranded aboard a life boat with a motley assortment of zoo animals, including a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a tiger named Richard Parker. Before long, only Pi and Richard Parker remain, an unlikely duo to be stranded at sea but one that provides unique insight into what it means to be human.
The two eventually learn to live together, despite their obvious differences, and without each other would surely have died. Pi confesses in one scene, “Without Richard Parker, I would have died by now. My fear of him keeps me alert. Tending to his needs gives my life purpose.”
As reflected in this quote, Life of Pi is the tale of life with its barest essentials. With all its worldly impurities boiled away, even at its most fundamental core of base survival, life is full of majesty and magic that make it worth fighting for.
Religion and spirituality give the film its framework and mystery; is there a God? Why does he allow tragedy here only to pour salvation there? Why are some of us open to him and others are not? And Ang Lee fleshes out that framework out with a film that is absolutely gorgeous to the eyes and to the heart.
After a couple days of “marinating” in it after watching it, my appreciation for it has grown, and that’s always a good thing. I’m looking very forward to a second viewing to see what more I can pull from its well. I plan to read the book, too, once I get caught up on all the others in my queue!
Life of Pi score: 4.5 Falcone Rings!