“Faith is a house with many rooms.”
The film Life of Pi displays several philosophical elements throughout it’s entirety. It is directed by Ang Lee known for other successful films such a Brokeback Mountain but the story is adapted from a novel of the same name by Yann Martel. The film does a great job of answering philosophical questions such as; Is there a supreme being? and what are the characteristics of a supreme being? It also deals with the concept of reality as a whole. All aspects of the film including the score and acting provide an immersive atmosphere that really makes these elements come to life. The film has been well received by critics garnering several oscars including “Best Director” and a score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Through spectacular visuals, clever dialogue, and amazing storytelling Life of Pi delivers a compelling philosophical and entertainment experience.
The film follows the journey and life of an Indian boy named Pi Patel as told by himself to a writer who wishes to turn the story into a book. Pi is raised on a zoo which his family owns. The portion of the film that deals with Pi as a boy concerns him finding himself through religion and childhood experiences. After the latter the rest of the movie focuses on an epic journey that Pi experienced as a teenager. Pi and his family decide to move their lives and zoo to Canada via a large Japanese freighter. On the journey to Canada the boat becomes caught in a violent storm that kills everybody on board and leaves Pi stranded on a life boat with some of his family’s animals. One such animal is a bengal tiger named Richard Parker who becomes both rival and companion to Pi as he struggles to survive on the open ocean. Pi struggles with his faith and seemingly inevitable death as he drifts on the open ocean encountering strange islands and sea life along the way. This journey concludes with both Pi and the tiger reaching mainland and being rescued from the brink of death. It is the context around these events that gives us philosophical insight.
The first question that Life of Pi deals with is whether a supreme being exists or not. The question is literally asked by the writer interviewing Pi who believes his story will confirm that there is a god. Pi believes that his love of god and faith preserved him on his journey. He believes that certain events that saved his life on his journey were directly caused by god. The faith that Pi has allows him to tackle tasks such as taming the tiger and facing death. Events such as a seemingly random school of fish being sent his way that prevent him from starving to finding a human tooth on an island to warn him of danger are seen as attempts by god to help Pi survive. This mindset exemplifies the theist’s school of thought which states that a god who is all loving and active in the lives of humans exists.These events and even the tragic aspects of his journey are all believed to be the doing of god by Pi although he admits he does not know the purpose of it. This kind of fits in with concept of determinism which states that everything that happens is for a divine purpose (this rules out nihilism being considered as an element of the movie).
Life of Pi also helps define some of the characteristics of god. Pi states that he follows three religions that each attributes to his idea of a god. Being Hindu allows him to understand god’s creative powers, Christianity allows his to understand god’s love and forgiveness, and Islam demonstrates to him that god commands discipline. Believing in all three religions neutralizes the ideas of monotheism and polytheism for Pi as he is open to believing in either one but not one absolutely. Pi does not believe in a singular religion but does believe in some seemingly undefined divine entity who embodies his personal values that encompasses several religions. Another school of thought shown in the film is pantheism which is the belief that everything on Earth embodies a godly spirit. This is seen when Pi states that he believes animals “have souls” as a child because of this it could be argued that Pi is also a Pantheist.
Finally Life of Pi wraps it’s overall theme of faith up by questioning what is real and what isn’t. At the end of the film Pi tells alternate version of his journey that is less fantastical and involves negative revelations about Pi’s character including the fact that he might be a murderer. Pi states that it is the interviewer’s choice to decide which story is better and which is true forcing him to question what really happened. In the end the interviewer decides to have faith in Pi’s character and accept the fantastic story as the truth. This shows that Pi’s lesson of faith has been adopted by his listener. Although the interviewer is decided the film leaves the audience to wonder which story is truth and to now test their faith in the same manner.
In conclusion I think Pi is excellent example of a philosophic film because delves into so many metaphysical theories. I also believe the film to be incredibly entertaining in general and I would recommend it to people of all ages. I believe that many of the views that Pi has will relate to the beliefs of many viewers and will also lead many to question their own beliefs. This film is so optimistic that you almost can’t help but like it.