Life of Pi

The movie “Life of Pi” is one that I was very keen to see, although I knew nothing about it, except the book had been a bestseller in the early part of 2001/02.

Unfortunately, any discussion about the film will necessarily spoil the plot as the most interesting talking point is the twist in the tale, so if you do not want to have the book/film ruined, then watch the trailer and stop there.

SPOILER ALERT

After being shipwrecked at sea for 227 days, the main character, Pi, is interviewed by Japanese officials trying to determine the cause of the sinking. He tells the story of how he survived the sinking in a lifeboat with a spotted hyena, an injured Grant’s zebra, and an orangutan.

As Pi strives to survive among the animals, the hyena kills the zebra, then the orangutan, much to Pi’s distress. At this point, it is discovered that a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker had been hiding under the boat’s tarpaulin; it kills and eats the hyena.

Frightened, Pi constructs a small raft out of flotation devices, tethers it to the boat, and retreats to it. He delivers some of the fish and water he harvests to Richard Parker to keep him satisfied, conditioning Richard Parker not to threaten him by rocking the boat and causing seasickness while blowing a whistle. Eventually, Richard Parker learns to tolerate Pi’s presence and they both live in the boat.

When the Japanese Ministry of Transport officials do not believe his story, he tells an alternative story of human brutality, in which Pi was adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s cook. The cook kills the sailor and Pi’s mother to use as bait and food. Pi, in turn, kills the cook. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Pi is Richard Parker (the tiger).

After giving all the relevant information, Pi asks which of the two stories they prefer. Since the officials cannot prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck, they choose the story with the animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God.” And so it is with the viewer…left to decide which version they prefer to believe in…

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