As we are consistently told throughout the opening scenes of Fox 2000’s new release, The Life of Pi (adapted from the 2001 best-selling novel by Yann Matel), the story about to unfold “will make you believe in God.”
Though that is hardly the case, the spectacular visual landscapes, animated beasts, and terrifying storm sequences, imagined and rendered masterfully in 3D by director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) will certainly cause a stir in your stomach, if not in your faith.
The story follows Pi Patel (played well by acting newcomer Suraj Sharma), told in a series of increasingly extended flashbacks from an older Pi (Irrfan Khan) to a dumbfounded Canadian writer (Rafe Spall) who is inquiring into his legendary story of surviving 227 days at sea—with a Bengal tiger.
Though on the surface the film seems to revolve around the test of Pi’s faith, it also attempts to test the audience’s trust by calling into question the facts about Pi’s story in the film’s final minutes. The older Pi suggests to the writer that only through the tremendous suffering he experienced was he able to come closer to God, or to cherishing his life. Stripped of everything—his family, his possessions, and his home—Pi’s ultimate test is to keep his will to live. These tests, these experiences of the human limit, he seems to say, are what make a great story, and great stories (regardless of their “truth”) have the ability to restore one’s faith in the beauty of life. As Mr. Lee put rather simply in an October press conference about the film, “I think it is very important to pretend to reach truth…to tease out that old feeling of purity and wonder.”
Life of Pi (Fox 2000) was released on November 21, and is now playing in theaters everywhere.