Life of Pi Review – What themes emerge?

From the film promos featuring Coldplay’s Paradise (I was disappointed that it wasn’t included in the movie) and knowing little about the famous book, I was really looking forward to seeing the film. I dusted off my 3D glasses and with the family we hurried off to a bookable show, balancing another evening event that was happening in parallel (KDP). Ultimately, we couldn’t get tickets to an earlier show and ended up traveling across town and sadly leaving the KDP event earlier than we planned to.

Many themes that start with the letter ‘I’ emerge from the film.
e.g: Inspiration, Influence, Impact and Inclusiveness. We witness the themes of strength through adversity & diversity, the need for stamina or seeking inner strength when all around you the situation is dire. The movie also talks to you from a spiritual perspective, for example, how  we are connected to nature but in daily lives we disconnect ourselves from this fact in the vain of convenience. The BBCs recent Supersize earth series shows human ingenuity from mankind’s ability to build cloud poking towers to massive food farms in Spain where greenhouses suffocate the countryside. Sadly, we end up forgetting our humanity in all of these technological advances, especially as people die everyday due to poverty in our over-engineered economics. The continuation of inequality between the genders in so-called developing industrial nations also contradicts mankind’s pursuit of excellence.

Clearly the character suffers during his journey both mentally and physically.

Suffering brings out the best and the worst in Life of Pi’s characters. On the one hand, the characters care for each other when they very well could have killed each other. On the other hand, suffering drives a few characters to murder and cannibalism. There’s a moment in the book when the protagonist catches a dorado fish. To subdue it, he beats it with a hatchet. He says, “I felt like I was beating a rainbow to death”. Whoever or whatever causes suffering in this novel – God or a bizarre sequence of events – the characters’ musings and fortitude through it all recall the sheen and flash of a rainbow.

Hiding from the Truth
Death is an inevitability and we just like Pi on his raft (he keeps a safe distance away from his guilt ridden boat) hide from this truth.  At one point he loses his survival supplies. This suggests that we both enter the world with nothing and leave with nothing. However, we spend our lifetime attempting to gather possessions or material wealth. We need a navigation aid and Pi’s survival guide book represents this. Most religions have religious scripture that contain a body of knowledge, understanding and support to help you become enlightened. Yet, how many of us use this?

An introspective: Does the story travel?
At one point in the novel Pi lands on on an island that has unique properties by day and night. A family member pointed out to me that an aerial view of the island reveals a shape similar to an eye. Wow! Yes, it is and the lake in the middle represents a pupil (maybe, a play on the word island suggests ‘eye-land’!). As the character swims in its inclusive warm waters, isn’t that what each human strives for – comfort and joy in all they see. Yet, the island has dangers that we encounter everyday, from crossing the road to evil or conspirators at each doorstep or corner.

From a mortality perspective
Death is the thing that Pi must push as far away from himself as much as possible and in our daily lives we put death at the back of our minds. Sometimes, if rarely we remember and learn from those who have already traveled beyond life. I recall some of the last scenes of the movie Phenomenon, the lead is played by the actor John Travolta. His character George Malley, is centred around a storyline that showcases his enhanced brain capacity that eventually is suggested by surgeons is down to a tumor. George escapes the hospital before his impending operation and meets two children (Glory and Al) at a farm. He talks about leaving this earth and suggests the following as he takes a bite from an Apple.

George Malley: You know, if we were to put this apple down, and leave it, it would be spoiled and gone in a few days. But, if we were to take a bite of it like this,
[bites apple]
George Malley: it would become part of us, and we could take it with us, forever.
[offers the apple to Glory, who takes a bite. Al refuses]
George Malley: Al, everything is on its way to somewhere. Everything.

If our lives are about a journey of personal growth and connection, we have an opportunity to consider our existence on a number of levels. Yes, we can enjoy the company of friends and develop relationships and if you are lucky enough establish bonds that will stay in the hearts of people you come in contact with long after you are gone. Your spirit can live on, just do good things! We need to also consider the connection we make with God. A Sikh aims to merge with him to avoid rebirth. Even taking time to meditate can be fruitful.

We do not have the capacity to grasp the wonder of the universe – I felt that during the scene when Pi is floating in the ocean and there is no visible separator between the horizon, water and sky above, the reflection created in the dark sky suggest a point of static presence. Apparently, sailors often comment about this experience as being magical. The imagery created by director Ang Lee has to be commended. Another natural moment of light and wonder is when Pi meets jelly fish – albeit he could get an electric shock!

In summary, the movie is a thought provoker, it suggests contemplation, wonder and how we evolve, whether it be from boy to man / child to adulthood. The fact that we are just a tiny conscious in our own little universe, yet there are bigger forces at play and we are all connected whether we choose to accept this or not, in time and space we need to be thankful for every day.

Categories: 2013, Review, Spirtuality


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