Friday, February 15, 2013

Finding Life in Pi

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

We are pleased to introduce a dear friend and today's guest blogger, Laura.

Laura Joy Carter will be graduating from Brigham Young University - Idaho in the fall of 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English Education and a minor in Spanish Education. She plans on studying further for a master's in literary analysis so that her mind might have a run through the complexities of literature. She was born in Utah, but has already traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Spain. She has a great desire to travel on to Thailand, Japan, Lithuania, and Greece so that her understanding and compassion of humanity might be broadened.

I was a little reluctant to go see Life of Pi when I first saw its posters. Perhaps this had something to do with the comment I had heard from my professor: “Ugh. It’s receiving good reviews, which makes me think it can’t follow the intent of the book.”

After studying Life of Pi in two different classes at BYU-I, my mind was properly entranced with the complex themes the book so delicately presented. It dealt with God, truth, and a “better story,” while simultaneously offering fiction, falsehoods, and murder. How could a “better story” be told via falsehoods? I wondered.

When my brother asked me to accompany him to finally see the “infamous” movie, I decided, out of curiosity more than anything, to go with him. As the opening credits ambled onto the screen (literally), I found myself smiling. The directors had turned something as simple and dull as credits into a work of art— and not just entertaining art. It was an amazing representation of the centered peace valued so much by all religions. I frowned in thought. This was a better start than I had anticipated.

For those who are not familiar with the plot, Life of Pi tells the tale of a young Indian boy, Pi, who somehow becomes converted to three religions at once: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Though the pastors argue, his parents sigh, and his brother torments him relentlessly for his oddity, Pi continues to stutter out in shy determination, “But Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’”

This is the striking character that steps onto the huge, ugly boat to take himself, his family, and a good portion of the family-owned zoo over to Canada. This is also the striking character who finds himself, a few days later, as the only living human floating beside the shipwreck. Only living human. Yes, his little lifeboat is graced by the company of a hyena, broken-legged zebra, orangutan, and Richard Parker. Richard Parker being a huge Bengal tiger, of course.

The story of Pi’s survival will supposedly help one believe in God. At least, that is what the curious writer within the film has heard on his way to interview Pi Patel. But even the book hadn’t completely convinced me of that statement. Which made the movie’s chance close to none, right?

But now I get to tell you: It worked. Though the storyline of Life of Pi could have been dull or ambiguous, it turned out to be . . . vibrant! The visuals were astounding (my brother and I exclaimed about fifty times on the way home), adding a richness to the world that the book had portrayed in its poetic thoughts. I will admit, several of the clear, sea-as-sky images still haunt me, causing a tiny ache inside of me—an ache for God. Pi’s religious perspectives permeate the plot, adding a sweet, gritty reality to the idealism of goodness.

However, the real dilemma occurs at the end of the movie, when an alternate story to what has been shown is suddenly presented (and no, I’m not going to spoil it for you!). The audience members are thrown into a confused decision, and must ask themselves “Which is the better story? And why do I choose it?”

What do we choose for ourselves? Is reality our God? Or is God our reality? Are our beliefs merely the glossed-over failures of gods and ourselves? Or are these failures the stuff of learning to breathe God’s atmosphere?

The ending of the movie was beautiful. It opened these questions to the viewer and even posed a possible answer for those who would see it. But the visuals and incredibly transparent acting of Surag Sharma as Pi give viewers every full, weighty experience needed to fully find their own answers.