Life of Pi (2012) or ‘The Better Story’

'Believe the unbelievable.' A tag line, that really means something.

‘Believe the unbelievable.’ A tag line, that really means something.

Hi there, this time on Sam’s reel views, i’ll be taking a really in-depth look at Life of Pi. So, I’ve been avoiding watching this film, primarily because of the praise it’s gotten, the 4 oscar wins, and because when I saw the trailer I just didn’t think i’d want to see it. Especially with people slinging around the phrase it’s the ‘next Avatar’ which in my opinion, is one of the worst tags you can give a film. I immediately thought it’d be this shiny, beautifully shot film, with ultimately no depth or soul. Ultimately, I couldn’t really have been more wrong. Life of Pi is beautiful both aesthetically, and also in what it represents. As for it’s genre, I guess it’s a coming of age story, mixed with fantasy, with hints of drama when needed.

The sinking ship.

The sinking ship.

A writer comes to visit Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel (Irrfan Khan) as he wishes to hear about his story. Pi tells him about his childhood as we cut to him as a young boy. He talks about how his father owned a zoo, and generally how he was very lost as a child in his beliefs. It’s very much about cultural diversity, and religion, with Pi having interest in being a Catholic, a Hindu, and a Muslim. Pi tries to befriend a Tiger named ‘Richard Parker’, at the zoo as his father stops him, and feeds the tiger a goat, in order to show him what cruel things the tiger is actually capable of. Ultimately Pi’s father decides to leave India, and sell their animals as he plans to move them to Canada. Whilst on the ship, the ship sinks, as Pi ends up on a fishing boat with a Zebra, an Orangutan, a Hyena, and a Tiger as Pi realizes his family must have sunk with the ship. They fight, and conflict, until only the tiger is left.

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Just..wow

Pi first fears the tiger, then begins to feed, and maintain it, as he tames it and grows close to the Tiger. They land on a fantastical island, filled with meerkats, before Pi suspects the island isn’t a reasonable habitat, and may lead to his death, as him and his Tiger set sail again. More time passes, with more storm as Pi finally reaches land. The tiger leaves the boat, and heads off into the jungle, without looking back, Pi mourns the loss of his friend Richard Parker. Pi is taken to a hospital as we reach the end of the story, as two Japanese insurance people approach him about the sinking ship, asking him what happened. He tells them the story, as they question it, and ask how it can be true, and ask for the truth. He then proceeds to tell them a different story, involving him on the boat, his mother, the ship’s intolerable cook from earlier scenes, and a wounded Buddhist sailor. He explains, the cook killed the sailor, his mother attacked the cook, subduing him before the cook retaliated and killed his mother, until he was forced to stab the cook, and throw him overboard. The writer notices similarities between the story, identifying the monk as the wounded zebra, his mother as the nurturing orangutan, the cook as the wily coyote, and the tiger, as Pi himself. Pi asks the writer which story he preferred, he says ‘the one with the tiger, it’s the better story’, as the writer looks through the insurance report Pi hands him, releasing they preferred that story too. 

Pi, and Richard Parker

Pi, and Richard Parker

So, with the tagline ‘believe the unbelievable’ we come full circle. Within a film that focuses so heavily on religion, fate, and allegory it’s necessary to kind of read it with that same scope. In many ways Pi’s tale is a religious parable, with the tiger presenting a big part of himself in ways. It could relate to the anger of the death of his mother if that’s what we choose to believe, the loss of his entire family, or the fact he feels forsaken by many gods. The tiger being this wild instinctual part of himself, he has to tame and embrace in order to survive. It’s about the tale, the grand story and the spectacle, as opposed to the harsh reality of the events that happened. The actuality that his father trained him for, by showing him the goat being eaten by the tiger being a rather effective metaphor. The way we see things and hear the story in the same way as the writer gives a really empathetic touch to the film, particularly towards the end as he’s posed which is the better story? as the audience very much asks themselves that question, like I did. 

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The visuals are stunning, and incredibly varied. The shots I’ve included don’t really do it justice to the moving thing, however there’s quite a strange irony in a film about visuals, so heavily featured and praised in Life of Pi, yet in the narrative conclusion we’re told that’s most likely, not what happened? Then again, it’s a film heavily featuring ideas of faith, spirituality, and acceptance. That’s the lesson in Pi, not to delve too deeply, or think, just to enjoy and kind of bask in the ambiance of it. It does have quiet parts, and dull parts but mostly manages to maintain interest. At first I must admit the animals swimming so vividly, and surviving the storm to make in the boat, I found suspicious which meant i wasn’t hugely surprised when he told the other version? but that’s something i’m willing to forgive as it’s such an ambitious concept. 

Inside the glowing plant... a human tooth?

Inside the glowing plant… a human tooth?

Overall, i’d really recommend Life of Pi, for it’s narrative, the spectacle of some truly stunning visuals, and some relatively good character development with such a short time span at the beginning half of the film. So yeah, watch it!, definitely worth your time, and arguably Ang Lee’s best film (in my opinion). Until next time folks! please follow, like, and comment, and feel free to suggest any films you’d like me to review in the requests, and suggestions page. Cheers!

IMDB Addendum:

Life of Pi (2012) is a fantasy drama from visual master Ang Lee. In my eyes it’s one of the most aesthetically beautiful films there probably ever will be, and certainly has been so far. It’s story details a man known as Pi Patel, who tells a story of his untraditional childhood to a writer who’s lacking in inspiration. Pi’s father owned a zoo, and he sought to move from India, and to do so he would have to cross the sea with his animals. The story unfolds as a freak tidal storm would strand Pi, making his future uncertain. It’s a stunning visual spectacle, supported by a story, about storytelling. The visuals mesh together so well with the inner workings of the story, and ultimately calls back upon the imagination and storytelling that led to cinema’s birth in the first place.

Judgment – Deserved

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