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Life of Pi and Believing in God April 16, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“I have a story that will make you believe in God. This powerful statement made early on in the movie Life of Pi, is the one that 93853_galsticks with me the most.  The story that will make us believe in God is told by Pi, a middle-aged Indian man, to a writer looking for a good story.

You have probably heard of Life of Pi by now and many of you will have seen it. In the Academy Awards it was awarded best achievement in cinematography.  It is an amazing feast for the eyes in 3-D.   It’s also a film that leaves people thinking about its meaning long after seeing it.  I had read the book (by Yann Martel)  a few years ago and this is one of those few stories that is more powerful in film form.  It has breathtaking scenes such as a school of dolphins, a whale leaping into the sky and amazing sunsets reflecting into the water.  The film takes on a magical quality at times while at other times it deals with the savage brutality that can be brought out by people trying to survive in life and death situations.

The story within a story is about Pi (first time actor Suja Sharm) a sixteen-year-old youth who is in a shipwreck.  He survives alone with Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal Tiger, on a lifeboat for 227 days.  I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen the movie so I won’t go into all the metaphors, symbolism and layers that make up the story.  The truth of the story like the truth of God is up to each of us to decide.  What I will explore is the story’s spiritual side.

As Pi is telling the story of his childhood we find out he was the son of a zookeeper in India who believed in the New India and hard science.  Whereas, Pi is a seeker who is born Hindu, comes to love Jesus and practices Islam.  Each religion has its own myths, fables, rituals and customs and Pi sees their value and comes to realize the underlining essence of each religion is love.

When Pi is alone at sea with only a tiger for a companion his faith in God is severely tested.  He has to endure the pain of losing his family and live with his fear of the tiger.  His struggle for survival includes threats from sharks, starvation, dehydration, storms and loneliness.  He’s forced to find a way to catch and kill fish to feed himself and Richard Parker even though normally he is a vegetarian.

A few scenes stood out for me as major spiritual turning points.  In one, Pi yells out to God that he surrenders. What more does God want from him?  I think all of us can relate to that feeling when we have been tested again and again until finally we let go and surrender to God.  We know we are at life’s mercy and there is nothing more we can do.  The agony Pi goes through leads him to find courage and inner strength.

Another pivotal scene is when Pi accepts that he is going to die with grace knowing he will rejoin his loved ones.  In the scene he and the tiger are staving and dehydrated.  The tiger has collapsed on the bench and Pi sits beside him and puts the nearly dead animal’s head on his lap.   All along he has seen Richard Parker’s soul in his eyes and has come to love the tiger as a companion.   He feels that the tiger has kept him alive as he has had to stay alert to keep from getting killed by the tiger and he needed to fish to keep both of them alive.

In another scene there is a violent storm at sea and Pi stands to face it while Richard Parker cowers under the tarpaulin, which covers half the boat.  All at once the storm clouds open and light shines through.  Pi feels the light is God is speaking to him.  He unhooks the tarpaulin, so he can share the Light of God with Richard Parker.

The story asks many questions about the mysteries of life, such as why does tragedy happen, what is truth and what is our purpose here on earth?  We all go through challenges and tests that seem more than we can endure and yet we are forced to use our creativity and become stronger for the experience.  So perhaps in the end it does not matter if the story makes you believe in God, but whether it makes you think about life, love and God.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, share your comments.  Did the story make you believe in God?  Did it cause you to reflect on life?  Were you different in some way after seeing the movie or reading the book in how you saw tragedy, hardship and courage?

Here is the official trailer of the film.



1. Darlene - April 16, 2013

Thanks Heidi. I love your reflections on this movie. I’ll rent it this week and let you know how i enjoyed it.

2. heidi skarie - April 16, 2013

I know you’ll enjoy it. It’s so beautiful to watch.

3. Ross - April 19, 2013

Thanks for a good review of the movie

4. Jensine Wing - May 26, 2013

When I watched the movie, I was captivated by the beauty of the filming. I thought the friendship with the tiger and Pi was well done, in that there was some realism on the natural character of the Tiger. I also realized that Pi was trying to care for the animals as he was trained to do in the zoo his parents owned. I liked that, too. The film to me had no spiritual meaning, just beauty. At the end of the film I was struck by the impression that Pi told the story for the benefit of the writer and it was not told as a true story. It could have even been changed by Pi if the first one hadn’t had the impact to inspire a story, or life. I, too, have had spiritual experiences, which I tried to share with others. It seems like these life-changing blessings for me don’t impact others the same way when I share them. Finally I realized that they were never meant to impact other people because they were only for me. A personal message, not for everyone. The others have their own experiences meant just for them. And so it is with “The Life of Pi”. It wasn’t meant for me, but for the author who interviewed Pi, and perhaps others who saw the film and had a religious experience.

heidi skarie - May 28, 2013

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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