Life of Pi is a fantasy film that is dramatic and also philosophical in nature. The film covers a lot of ground. It begins as a chronicle of one boy’s life and how he grows into a man that decides to believe in God. The God part of this film makes it somewhat predictable. It certainly wasn’t written by Ernest Hemingway who seemed to hint at an atheist reality. Instead, this film, which began as a bestseller book, takes us through the fantasy story of a man who survives a shipwreck and over 200 days at sea with a Bengal tiger. We are given two stories and offered the choice which to believe. In that way, minus Pi’s God theme, it reminded me a lot of K-Pax, which wasn’t a “God” themed film but also a fantasy film with 2 options to believe. K-Pax led you closer to the truth of the dual story In my opinion. In K-Pax, the fantasy option is a lot more easily swallowed (pardon the tiger pun). We are actually told by Pi in the end that if the fantasy story is preferable to the real story by a listener, then that listener is choosing to believe in God. Hmmm.
There is a touching and romantic scene where “Pi” asks a girl what her dance symbol meant. She tells him it was meant to show a Lotus flower in the jungle. When there is an allusion that God will enter the story, that would have been a perfect chance to include a Lotus flower. Sadly, we get an explanation more suited to Tim Burton’s Big Fish: Nonsensical albeit human. Believing in God is such a personal activity I certainly don’t think a fantasy film can help me perform it. If one is looking for emotion and fantasy to believe in, church and the Life of Pi will fill that desire well. On the other hand, if one wishes to look at things as they are, neither church nor the Life of Pi will open any heavens.
While it started out intriguing and the middle scenes were nothing short of cinematic beauty, Life of Pi failed to address the real question which is: “How can a man have faith when he is alone against nature?” I would have liked to see that study continue throughout the film. As it is, it stops half-way through. Those who believe in God will find a warmth in this film that may strengthen their beliefs. At the same time, despite the amazing cinematography, atheists and shades in between will enjoy only that: a big screen version of Nat Geo HDTV. All will be entertained but no philosophies will be turned.