Cultural Arts Review: Life of Pi Hits the Bigscreen

Posted on November 27, 2012 by

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Winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction, Life Of Pi, by Yann Martel, is the story of a young boys journey across the ocean with a fully grown bengal tiger, and the parallel journey of his quest to find his religious identity. Pi Patel was raised a hindu, but eventually found himself to identify with aspects of Christianity and Islam as well, eventually resulting in a hybrid religion incorporating aspects of all three practices, focused simply on following God (Pi’s adoption of multiple religions in an effort to grow stronger in his religion and closer to God illustrates in itself an Islamic ideal, acceptance of other religions that focus on pursuit of god, or “followers of the Book”). The beauty of this book was interwoven stories of Pi’s childhood, filled with self-searching and religious exploration, along with the current, and fairly urgent predicament of being trapped on a small boat, with no food, water, and 227 days to potentially be eaten. While the visual adaption of this incredible story was visually pleasing, and certainly did justice to the adventure/drama that Pi felt every day on his life boat, it seemed to push the spiritual aspect of the story to a back burner.

“It’s got amazing visuals and a handful of really great moments, but ultimately it just doesn’t hold together.” Stephen Silver-EntertainmentTell

“Didn’t convince me to believe in God, but it did make me believe in the power of cinema.”-Matt Singer-ScreenCrush

While I thought the movie didn’t necessarily fall apart, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a visual experience that would activate the religious “bones” in non-believers, my review would be a middle ground approach. I think Life of Pi was a visually pleasing, rather exciting tale of adventure and survival, that on its own would stand as a fairly well received film. I think readers of Martel’s novel will leave theaters slightly disappointed in the extent to which Pi’s religious journey was described. A fourteen year old’s rejection of cultural norms and religious requirements led to a deeper understanding, and really a closer relationship with what he saw as god, and the whole process made for a fascinating book. But really, on the big screen, who wants to watch a teenagers introspective religious pilgrimage when there’s a hungry tiger around?

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