*Join me as I review all of the 2013 “Best Picture” Academy Award nominees*
– Life of Pi
There are films that make us believe in things that we would otherwise not believe in, and then there are films that we want to believe in but sometimes struggle with the reality of such things. Life of Pi is one of those films that you want to believe in but struggle with. Ang Lee’s tale of survival at sea with two unlikely friends is one of spirituality and faith.
Life of Pi stars Suraj Sharma as Pi, a likely genius of a boy who grows up in India with his family and their zoo. Irfan Khan plays Pi all grown up and telling his life story to a reporter (Gérard Depardieu) who doesn’t know exactly what to believe while Pi is telling this story of grandeur. Pi’s family gets a chance to move to America and they load up the zoo on a cargo ship and set off on the Pacific ocean. A freak storm causes the cargo ship to sink killing everyone on board but Pi. He escapes the wreckage on one of the ship’s life boats with a Bengal Tiger. It’s from this point the film examines Pi’s character and the relationship he strikes with said Tiger.
The film takes three parts; Pi – short for “Piscene” but sounds like “pissing” – in his adolescent years where he goes through rounds struggling with his faith, Pi’s life and his religion takes a hit when he witnesses the Bengal Tiger – Richard Parker – eat a goat in his father’s zoo. It’s at that moment that he learns to fear certain aspects of life. The sinking of the ship that Pi’s family is on takes place nearly an hour into the film but the sequence is so good that it’s hard to argue with how long it takes for Life of Pi to find its sure footing. The film’s second act begins with Pi and the animals that survived the ship and what Pi does to survive crossing the Pacific. Pi’s co-existence with Richard Parker fulfills the second act of the film leading up to the third act, where the life boat comes across a deserted island (that may or may not really exist). Pi is eventually rescued on the shores of Mexico and is questioned by representatives of the company who’s ship sank. It’s here where the film kindof falls apart. It’s during these questions that Pi offers up an alternate string of events of what really happened on that lifeboat. He tells a different story of survival that pretty invalidates the entire film up to that point. The movie may have been more believable or different had Ang Lee decided to give us a visual representation of the alternate events of what happened, but he doesn’t. We’re told what to believe on faith, and on faith alone.
If you think about it, the entire film is about faith and then we’re all the sudden told to believe something we never saw. Why? The film is a grand spectacle up until that point. Why wouldn’t Lee want us to visualize what really happened? Richard Parker is the perfect companion for Pi on his survival journey. It forces Pi to believe in Parker and to trust him without completely trusting him. If Richard Parker wasn’t really a Bengal Tiger but indeed an actual person on that rescue boat, why couldn’t we see it? After all, seeing is believing.
Life of Pi is a good film. It’s a film of grand illusions and great performances. It’s one of the better films of the year, hence the Best Picture nomination. However, Life of Pi could have been the best film of the year if we would have been given a better picture of events. Still, the movie is more than worth your time.