“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.”
The quote above is of course from the Dark Knight, but it applies to this movie more than any other film in recent memory. Beware, if you have not seen the movie yet, spoilers will follow. Hearing the rumbles from several people over the twist ending in the film, I was kind of fearing it throughout watching the movie. I was told that Life of Pi had an ending similar to both Savages and Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. For whatever reason, the one in Savages I didn’t really mind, but the Breaking Dawn ending really bothered me and altered the whole film experience for me.
So when the ‘twist’ came in this film, I was wonderfully surprised, “That’s it?” I felt it was way more ambiguous than people think or claim. The signs may point to the darker story being the truth, but I also feel that it is open-ended enough where the viewer can decide their own version of the story. How horrible would it be if Pi’s second version of the story, with the humans as the animals and resorting to such brutality, how horrible would it be if that was the real version? I choose to believe in humanity and all of the stuff that I saw on screen. After all it is the better story, and yes, sometimes the truth isn’t good enough.
So in this discussion of the film, I choose to focus on what I believe was the real version of the story, or at least the one that I prefer as well, which is the animal story and everything that we saw on screen. “This story will make you believe in God.” The line was mentioned several times throughout the film in a conversation between an adult Pi and the reporter whom he is telling his story too. Well, the movie certainly did not do that, but it’s not like I was expecting it to at any point. People who took those lines literal and were then disappointed when they were not converted had it all wrong and only set themselves up for that disappointment.
I am not a fan of religion, so I knew this would be a tricky film for me. I never felt like the movie was preaching to me, and in a way even with all of the religious talk and the main character taking up three different religions, I felt like this could work as a case against religion. It could be about how we prefer the fairy tale over the dark truth because deep inside we all want to believe in something. I certainly wish I could believe in stuff like that, but reason and logic and so much evidence does not really afford me that luxury.
In a way, I liked how Pi took up the three different religions and was a Christian, Hindu and Muslim. The people who criticized Pi and say that there’s no way one could do that or how he was contradicting himself, don’t really realize how crazy the thought of religion is and how crazy one must be to believe in one religion in the first place so if you are going to believe like Pi does, then why not go all in and get as much information as you can. Like I said, the religion stuff never bothered me, and while I knew it would be tricky to pull off, I felt like director Ang Lee did a great job of walking that thin line. Maybe he did play it a little too safe in the risk of not really offending anyone, but in the end the movie is way better for it.
So what about the film? It was such a beautiful film to watch and had so much texture that I only wish now that I would have actually saw it in 3-D. Everything on screen looked fantastic and I never knew where the CGI started and ended. The movie did everything that film is supposed to do, it gave me those indescribable feelings throughout and I can’t help but love movies that do that. I was a bit surprised that the film only had a PG rating since I believe that some of the scenes of the animals eating each other were a bit hard to watch, especially since things did look so real.
It’s such a great testament to the film that I was invested in everything leading up the shipwreck as well. I loved how the story was set up and how everything led to that inevitable shipwreck, and man, that shipwreck was some of the most beautiful looking filmmaking I have ever seen as well as one of the most terrifying things I had ever seen; it’s certainly up there with the plane crash from The Grey as one of the most terrifying and realistic accidents ever created for film. It’s not all eye candy however, as you begin to think about all of the people and animals on the ship, including Pi’s mother, father and brother. Pi’s screaming and crying is felt and you are with him every step of the way.
I love how Ang Lee, or the author of the novel, take your pick, decided to go with the realistic stuff in such a large, fantastical tale. Having four different animals, as well as Pi, on one small lifeboat, well needless to say there wouldn’t be four animals for long. Nature takes its course and everything happens as it should, even if like I said earlier, it is a bit hard to watch. The other problem would come from how having Pi and the tiger Richard Parker in such close quarters for so long would realistic play out. I feared that the tiger would be somewhat humanized, but that doesn’t really happen here. A tiger would not hesitate for one second and would rip your head off in an instant. There is no version of this story where the boy and the tiger would become friends.
Pi believes in Richard Parker, that the tiger has a soul and more importantly, he loves Richard Parker for keeping him alert and pushing him to stay alive. Well, that love is one-sided and not returned since Richard Parker is a tiger and has no sentimentality. The story does not try to prove otherwise. Richard Parker might have began to respect Pi, but perhaps that’s the only emotion that Richard Parker could express towards him, since the only other thing the tiger was thinking about was survival.
I loved the last bit of interaction between Pi and Richard Parker when the two finally hit the Mexican shores. Pi is spent, lying on the beach and watching the tiger walk away from him and into the jungle. It could have easily been romanticized with some kind of heartfelt goodbye that wouldn’t have really been realistic but perhaps would have sent people home happy. Instead, the fact remained that Richard Parker was a wild animal, and when he stopped right before entering the jungle, there was no looking back at Pi. It hurt Pi and broke his heart, but perhaps he had too much faith in that moment since really he was just lucky that Richard Parker didn’t devour him while walking past him.
Some of the images in the film will stay in my memory for a long time, and to think, I have left out so much more. Perhaps, my favorite visual scene in the film was when they were on the lifeboat and the water and sky were one. It was just impossible to take your eyes off the screen. There was also that magical floating, carnivorous island that I’ll let you see for yourself. At times it felt like I was watching a documentary on wildlife and I never felt more like that than when we are on that island.
The film is a lot to process as it is not really like any film out there. I knew that it would be a hard film to write about, but it was also a review that was begging to be written. At one point towards the end of the film, the reporter tells Pi, “It’s a lot to make sense of.” There will be no arguing here on that point, but to that I must go with Pi’s response and to a quote that might sum up the entire movie, “Why does it have to make any sense?” It could not have been said more brilliantly. Needless to say, this is one of the best films of the year and in a lot of ways it is more than just a movie, rather it something extremely powerful that everyone should experience.