Adapted from the book, Life of Pi, the film of the same name is rich with animal life and the intriguing question: Do animals have souls? Among many other questions, religion poses another topic for deep discussion. Pi, short for Piscine Molitor Patel, discovers throughout his youth the importance of religion. Not only does Pi find personal reflections in Hinduism, he looks into Catholicism as well as Islam.
Despite being questioned by his father and brother, Pi continues on his quest to love God throughout the various religions he converts to. After encouragement from his mother, Pi perseveres in his studies and even says, “Faith is a house with many rooms.”
Young love finds Pi in a pretty-faced girl, Anandi, whom he plays music for in dance class. Pi follows her for a while until she catches him outside the local market. The encounter begins a companionship, which develops into a romance that Pi recalls while being stranded on a lifeboat. Introducing his new love to the zoo where he grew up shows Pi a new perspective through Anandi’s eyes as she corrects Pi when he describes Richard Parker’s showing off. She gently says, “He is watching.”
Pi simply smiles and understands that while Richard Parker may rule the zoo, he isn’t always a dictator. He is merely another animal living life and watching the world around him.
After calculating the family’s expenses, Pi’s father decides it is time for a change. He has work prospects in Winnipeg, Canada, therefore moving Pi and the family across the ocean. Having to say goodbye to his newfound love, Pi is torn between his homeland and the thought of his new life in a foreign world.
On a ship, Pi’s mother consoles him into eating dinner, only to be maliciously taunted by the French cook. The cook calls Pi’s family “curry-eaters,” which in turn sparks a fight between Pi’s chivalrous father and the worthless “servant.” The family finally eats a vegetarian meal of rice and is approached by a friendly Asian who encourages them to eat the gravy, as it adds flavor. After exchanging looks with one another, a slight comfort washes over the group, understanding that the entirety of the ship is sailing unknowingly into a new future.
A savage thunderstorm breaks out and upsets the ocean, causing the ship to sink. In the midst of the chaos, Pi loses sight of his family and has to watch the entire ship slowly enter the depths of the Pacific. As sharks circle the incident and Pi escapes the scared Richard Parker, he finds his way back onto the lifeboat along with a broken-legged zebra. Later, the orangutan, Orange Juice, finds refuge in the boat with the unusual crew. A hyena comes out of hiding in the canvas cover and kills off the surviving animals until Richard Parker takes the hyena out. Pi can only watch in horror as he loses Orange Juice, the one link he had to his mother.
Pi loses his family along with his sense of reality. After surviving a floating, cannibalistic island and being deserted by Richard Parker on the Mexican shore, Pi has to retell his adventure to two Japanese insurance agents who doubt the exact events that took place.
In the conclusion of the colorful film, the audience has to decipher between two stories, both of which could have taken place, but one of which helps the blooming author believe in God. Traveling in Piscine Molitor Patel’s shoes helps the audience understand the cycle of nature as well as the importance of unfailing faith.
Life of Pi is a film to capture the full attention of children and adults alike. Strong imagery, intense emotional depth and elaborate prose intrigue as well as presenting the innermost question: “Which story is real?”
Pi’s one haunting solution in the film is not that an animal has a sympathetic soul but that animals merely live to survive, and any sympathy reflected from their eyes is our own petty emotions reflected at us. In any case, are we not all animals when it comes down to survival?