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Movies to remember – Life of Pi

Life of Pi narrates the story of an Indian boy called Piscine Molitor Patel. He is named after a French swimming pool of clear and limpid waters, where his honorary uncle once swam… with this original name Pi comes to the world.

To avoid bullying and gaining popularity in school, he changes his name to Pi as π, the sixteenth letter in the Greek alphabet used in geometry to express the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, as he explains the first day of school. Only that his life will defy mathematical logic…

To begin with, Pie is born in a zoo. His father inaugurated one inside the botanical garden of Pondicherry, India to celebrate the emancipation of that region, which used to be a French colony. Pi comes to this world right there, surrounded by nature, which enables him to learn about animals, love them and connect with them. In the first scene, we can see a great variety of birds, apes, amphibians, and mammals of the zoo, and an exuberant vegetation. That is the opening scene.

As Pi grows up, he develops a great spiritual life, adopting three religions: Hinduism first, and then Christianity and Islam. He believes that there are many ways to reach God and that each religion makes a contribution. And here we find two of the central themes in the movie: religion versus science, on the one hand, and what we decide to believe about life, upon the other. When Pi starts to narrate his life story to a writer searching for an original idea to for his new book, he says: ‘I will tell you my story. What you decide to believe is up to you.’ I agree with Pi: life is what we decide to believe about it.

Just when Pi is a teenager, the Patels decide to leave India for political reasons and move to Canada, where Pi’s father had a job opportunity. They travel by ship, together with their animals, which they will later sell in the USA. One of Pi’s favorite animals and one of the latest acquisitions of the zoo is Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger with whom Pi will start an unusual relationship during the largest portion of the voyage through the Pacific Ocean. The tiger’s name is also the result of another original anecdote: he was registered with the seller’s name.

Richard Parker

Image / Chris Phutully.

While on high seas, an electric storm unleashes and the ship wrecks. Pi is the only survivor, but he won’t be, apparently, totally alone: Richard Parker, the tiger he wanted to become friends with when he was a child, is going to be there with him. To survive, Pi learns how to live with the tiger and finds some help in an instruction book for castaways:

“For castaways with big carnivores, try to settle your own territory. Try this method:

 1. Choose a day when the waves are moderate, but regular.

2. Put the boat facing the waves to make the voyage as comfortable as possible. Blow the whistle softly.

3. Put the boat sideways to the waves and blow the whistle aggressively and repeatedly.

The animal will associate the sound of the whistle with the discomfort of sea sickness. Tamers do this only that they do not have access to rough ties”.

Pi tries to settle his own territory by demarcating it with urine, just as animals do. The tiger does the same thing and spatters him. A communication start. When Pi wants the tiger to move to a certain part of the boat, he puts a piece of fish to motivate the tiger, and he achieves it.

One day, the tiger dives into the ocean to go for a swim, and when he tries to get back on the boat, Pi threatens him with a spear to prevent him from doing so. But the tiger persists, clenching the boat for many hours even until dusk, just then Pi realizes that he has made a new friend, or a partner while surviving at sea. They start to fish together and they complement each other. Anyhow, Pi keeps trying to become the alpha male and he accomplishes it. After a rough and devastating storm, they get closer and, in my opinion, this is the most moving scene in all the film. Pi sits next to the tiger, lying on the deck, exhausted as a result of the storm. He caresses Richard Parker and places his head on his lap. Pi confesses: “without Richard Parker I would be dead by now. My fear of him keeps me alert and satisfying his needs gives me a reason to live”. I think they definitely become friends and here we find the third main theme in the story: friendship between animals and humans.

Life of Pi - Richard Parker

Image / ビッグアップジャパン

Even though the movie was released in 2012, I will stop narrating here, in case someone has not seen it yet. This is a beautiful story about courage, faith, and reason and survival instinct. Don’t miss the chance to see it!

This film is a great production by Ang Lee, who won an Oscar as best director in 2013. In addition, Lee and his crew won three other awards: best photography, best original soundtrack and best visual effects. The film is an adaptation of the novel by Yann Martel. I recommend that you see it because it is a beautiful, meaningful, profound, inspiring, encouraging and adrenalinic film. The landscapes are gorgeous and the cameras capture them magnificently, especially with the 3D technology. If you want to enjoy, be moved, and reflect at the same time, this is the movie for you! 

Cover image courtesy of ビッグアップジャパン