Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life of Pi

I really enjoyed this movie-- provocative, beautiful, well-crafted, well-acted (including the first film for the actor who played Pi). I didn't see it in 3-D, but I don't think that would add much. The first time, I saw it on the big screen; the second time, on TV. Nice both ways, but better on the big screen (not surprising). 

I also looked at some videos of Ang Lee (and here) and enjoyed his discussion of using 3-D for the first time and the humility he gained from working with water. In terms of the book's message/vision, he is a thoughtful agnostic-- and his questions and his searching are reflected in the film.

I have not yet read Yann Martel's book, but probably will, given how much I enjoyed the movie. 

If you haven't seen/read it yet (but plan to), then you won't want to read any further. Spoiler alert!

The key moment happens at the end as Pi relates "his story" to the Japanese insurance agents. He provides a synopsis of what the movie depicts. And the agents uncomfortably say that the story won't work for their purposes-- and at least imply that it's not believable. Pi asks if they want another story and they say yes. His second story is more concrete, using the characters of his first story as representatives/metaphors. Then the movie flashes back to the present and he asks his interviewer which story is better. The interviewer replies, "the first". Pi's response: "And so it goes with God."

The funny thing is that both stories are fantastic. The one is fantastic in a supernatural sense, assuming the presence of God. The other is fantastic in a natural sense, assuming no presence (or assuming away the presence) of God. But both are amazing and both require considerable faith. (Seeing it the second time, knowing what to expect and what to look for, I'd say the second/natural story becomes relatively more fantastic.)

And so, the key question for life and theology-- whether interpreting a particular event or looking at life as a whole: Does one believe the supernatural fantastic story-- or the natural fantastic story? Or does one imagine that the natural story is not all that fantastic?

All of this fits neatly in the "post-modern" context-- with its emphasis on narrative, story, subjectivity, humility about what we "know", etc. For moderns, this is rough business either way-- and they'll ignore it or push it away. Which story do you believe?


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