*** LIFE OF PI SPOILER ALERT ***
We saw Life of Pi last night, and I wanted to write some quick thoughts about it. Most are around the end, so I want to make sure that I don’t give anything away to someone that might want to see it. I don’t have that large of a readership, so I am not that concerned. But if you do read this blog, and you want to see this movie, then skip this post.
The movie revolves around a middle aged man, Pi, talking to a writer and telling of his life growing up and exploring multiple religions. He lives with his family in a zoo in India that is run by his father and mother. Early on he is curious about his path and is open to many things. Hinduism is his start and it is mentioned that there are over 33 million gods in Hinduism so he was bound to identify with a few of them. He sits in bed reading graphic novels on Hindu gods and goddesses. For him, the gods are super heroes. [That is an interesting analogy and one that we fall short of seeing today. We see our myths as mere myths and nothing to identify with. It is easier to do so as a child, but growing up we seem to get more set in our ways.] He even explored Christianity and thanked Vishnu for bringing him to Christ.
The meat of the story is him being in a ship wreck and jumping onto the life raft at the last second. A zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger also make it on the raft. The hyena attacks the zebra and kills it. It then turns to the orangutan and the orangutan smacks it unconscious. The hyena awakens and pounces on the orangutan and kills it as well. The tiger jumps from under the tarp covering the boat and devours the hyena.
Pi knows that the tiger will kill him, so he makes a small raft attached to the rescue boat. He floats on that catching fish for the tiger. He keeps his distance, and at one point he has the ability to let the tiger drown. However, he cannot bring himself to do this and saves it. After a while he attempts to train the tiger. He may not be able to tame it, but he should be able to train it. He comes up with a plan on how he is going to do it, and after practicing many times he goes for the implementation and fails. He is discouraged, but gains his courage again and stands up to the tiger with a sharp stick. The tiger eventually submits, and while still something to be feared, he and the boy form a relationship. They both land on an island that provides them nourishment by day, but the pools of fresh water turn to acid by night and the island eats fish, meerkats, and whatever falls in the water. Pi knows that he cannot stay here. He gathers supplies and the tiger, and they both push off for their goal.
Near exhaustion, Pi reaches a sandy shore in Mexico. He pulls the boat onto the beach and collapses feeling the sand as the “warm cheek of god”. The tiger heads to the edge of the jungle and Pi expects him to look back. He wants some form of closure, but the tiger just pauses and then moves on.
In the “present”, adult Pi tells the writer he is talking to that the shipping company performed an inquiry and he told them the story of the tiger and the raft. They do not believe him. They want the truth. He then tells them the story of the life boat with the cook killing the sailor with the broken leg, his mother slapping the cook, the cook killing his mother, and then Pi killing the cook. The zebra was the sailor, the cook was the hyena, his mother was the orangutan , and he was the tiger. [Realization. Light.] He asks the writer “In both stories my family dies and I am the only survivor. Neither story has anything to do with the cause of the sinking of the ship. Which one do you prefer?” The writer replies “The one with the animals”. Pi then says “And so it is with god”.
My thoughts on the story evolved once the realization was in place. The tiger was really a metaphor for Pi’s sense of self. It seems ripped from the drawings of the 10 Bulls. From his search, to the taming of the tiger, to riding it home, to not needing the tiger any more, to being out in the world. The parallel seems so sharp to me, but that could be because I have been focusing on the 10 Bulls lately.
- The Search – Pi is fascinated by many religions. He explores all and sees no conflict in them.
- Seeing the footprints – This is a difficult one to pin to a specific event in the movie. Pi sees evidence of something more. There is also the event of the tiger killing the goat which changes him. Aboard the ship, Pi sees the beauty of the storm and yells at God to bring more rain.
- Perceiving the Bull – Pi kills the cook and sees his true nature. He is surprised and frightened by his actions.
- Catching the Bull – Pi fashions a life raft to keep him safe from the tiger. He has no choice but to do this to keep himself alive. He keeps the tiger at bay, and he cannot escape from it and it cannot escape from him. He has the opportunity to let the tiger drown, but he realizes that he cannot kill the tiger. He feels compassion.
- Taming the Bull – Pi trains the tiger and becomes disciplined in his actions. It is still a ferocious beast and they are not completely one in action. His self is still separate.
- Riding the Bull Home – Pi and the tiger arrive on an island and Pi knows he cannot leave the tiger there. The tiger knows that this is not home. Pi gathers supplies and he and the tiger leave. He sees him as being separate from the tiger, but they are one in action.
- Bull Transcended – Pi and the tiger arrive at the beach. The tiger goes to the edge of the jungle, hesitates, and moves on. Pi did this all himself. He survived the 266 days at sea by himself. He did not need the tiger. The tiger was something that he made up to keep going. Is the self the same way?
The last few are not really depicted in the movie, although I could be missing them. I could also be making this connection to the 10 bulls incorrectly.
- Bull and Self Transcended – There is no tiger, there is no self, there is no mind.
- Reaching the Source – There was no need to search, just find. Everything is and always was here.
- In the World – Out in the world, everyone is enlightened.
The final comment “And so it is with god” implies that all things are the same whether God is there or not. We are placed on this earth and our placement here has no effect on what has come before us. Our journey can be a magical one or it can be one of survival. Why not choose the story that you prefer. Choose the story that makes you happy.
If you are interested in the 10 bulls, please check out the following:
- Taming the Wild Ox – Provides detailed analysis from multiple sources on each bull/ox
- Oxherderzen – Great interpretation and analysis of the 10 Oxherding Pictures
- Bullzen 10 Bulls – My analysis of the 10 bulls (in progress)
- Movie Review: Life of Pi (paperthanwords.wordpress.com)
- Movie Review: Life of Pi (IMAX 3D) (rohanwrites.wordpress.com)