Religion, spirituality and God are something of a major issue in the world we live in today, especially in the United States. It’s a conversation that instills polarizing opinions and beliefs, and it frustrates our world to see that religion, an ideology and theology of peace and love, has brought nothing more than pain and suffering throughout history. But in Life of Pi, God and spirituality is something much more than what the typical cynic or atheist would assume, and fortunately for all of us engaged in the spiritual realm of life, Life of Pi is a grand tale of how life can and cannot explain the role God plays, no matter we believe is God or if God exists.
Life of Pi, based off the New York Times bestselling novel by Yann Martel, entails the journey of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian child seeking God in numerous ways. His father, a property own that also includes a zoo, is a non-believer, one who emphasizes the importance of science and medicine as truth. His mother on the other hand, is a gentle and kindred soul who believes that Hinduism, or religion in general, is a way of life that can only explain the human soul. Intrigued in the idea of a greater being, Pi consumes on many religious beliefs, eventually become a Muslim, Christian and a Hindu all at the same time. This is a very important characteristic of Pi that we’ll discuss later. But moving forward, Pi and his family decide to move to Canada on a freighter ship, where they take all their belongings and their animals. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes as the ship is caught within a horrendous storm, and all Pi can do is watch the ship sink in his lifeboat.
This sets up the main situation of the entire film where Pi tries to survive on the lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker, an orangutan, a zebra and a hyena. As time continues and Pi struggles for survival, his relationship with Richard Parker changes in ways that he cannot imagine. And this is where the film really takes off to a new realm. Richard Parker and Pi are so essential, and their ways of dealing with each other is what makes the emphasis of survival even more noticeable and important. They needed each other to survive, and though life would’ve been a lot easier for Pi if Richard Parker did not exist, his presence allowed Pi to move forward and continue on when he felt it wasn’t possible.
There’s so much to Life of Pi that I can’t really discuss, mainly because of spoilers and themes that shouldn’t be known unless you’ve already watched the film. But what’s important here is what the film is mainly trying to say about life, God and how it all works. And mainly, it doesn’t. Before all of you religious orthodox faithfuls starting hashing me out and labeling me as an atheist, calm down. I’m on my own spiritual journey, trying to make sense of how God works in my life. But this is exactly what the film is trying to portray. God works in each life differently, and how we see spirituality and our relationship with God is a personal experience that no one can take away from us.
It’s hard to make sense of religion and how it deals with the world. This is where things get super tricky God, because things are not consistent and everyone’s life or their experiences. To say God works in one absolute way with disagree with everyone’s personal story or testimony, and Pi’s life is the epitome of that situation. Pi was a kind and lighthearted individual who cared about a greater being and wanted to know God better. His priority in God and religion was a testimony to his own belief, but what he lacked the most was his faith. When we come to our worst, faith is what keeps us sane and stable within our path.
Pi’s situation is by far a terrible one. But what is clearly represented here is what keeps us going, especially when there’s no hope in sight. Faith in whatever we believe in is a miraculous aspect of our soul, and to those who are non-believers, seem to think is the one thing that is unexplainable. When things go wrong, who have we turned to that gives us peace? We may see God as a figure that delivers us from evil or unfortunate situations, but I see God as a figure who gives us peace during times of turmoil, and though he may not be able to literally bring us out of any tragic event, He can provide something spiritually uplifting.
God is not a clear partaker in this film, but more part of the conversation. There’s a crucial part in the ending of the film that discusses the existence of God, and personally, that is how religion should work in every individual. Obviously, those who haven’t seen the film have no clue what I’m talking about. But mainly, Pi’s experience and personal journey with Richard Parker will always be questioned and unbelievable, and to the scientist in all of us, is truly somewhat ridiculous. But to the religious and faithful, it’s a story that is miraculous but possible. But each life in this world is a remarkable journey, and the way one experiences life and sees the world is entirely up to the individual.
This film makes me want to study religion, spirituality and God forever, fully knowing that my questions will never be completely answered. And that’s okay. Life of Pi is not focused on the destination but the process, the journey. How we arrive to a certain understanding or conscious belief is just as important as what the understanding or belief is.
This film is visually mesmerizing. The 3D is used to its full capacity, and when filmmakers like Ang Lee decide to use 3D in ways that it’s supposed to be used, I’ll be the first in line. But this film is so much more than just the visuals. It’s an epic adventure with a character trying to find out answers to questions we all have. He just has a hungry tiger with him.
Life of Pi gets 4 Stars (out of 5).