“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Albert Einstein
The glorious, profound absurdity of it all parades before our eyes in spectacular 3-D in Ang Lee’s adaptation of Life of Pi. Based on the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Yann Martel, this film takes you where you need to go, then yanks you back playfully, and finally delivers onto a choice. Just as there are two distinct ways of looking at the celebrated, mysterious number pi, most of us come at our lives battling the duality of science vs. religion. For those who aren’t spiritual or religious, the notion of equating the two is ridiculous. Because humans see beauty and magic in all things does not mean that it was planned by a higher being. And yet, even the least religious among us will cry out in moments of horror or ecstasy, “oh god!” We do this because we have no other word.
Life of Pi follows the story of an Indian boy who calls himself Pi. He spends much of his young life yearning towards religion. He follows the teachings of three — Christianity, Hinduism and Islam — and all the while observes the animals in the zoo his family owns and maintains. Early on, he learns an important lesson about the Royal Bengal tiger, that to the tiger he is nothing but food. He may put his hand in the cage in a gesture of trust, but that doesn’t mean the tiger will recognize the offer as friendship. The existence of God perhaps helped explain nature’s wonders before science provided other answers. But as mankind discovered earthly explanations, our hyper-aware sensibilities put us at odds with the godly. For some, the quest for answers has set us eternally out of balance with the stark truth of the natural world.
Pi and his family and all of their zoo animals ship out, Noah’s Ark style, on a journey to a new home in Canada . The plan is to sell off the animals to raise enough money to start a new life, but at sea their ship is hit by a brutal storm. Pi is cast out into the darkness and barely survives, holding on to a small boat. When the storm clears, Pi finds himself alive and adrift with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra. If you haven’t read the book I won’t tell you what happens next except to say that eventually Pi and a tiger he names Richard Parker are thrust together in a story of survival.