Coming Soon: Life of Pi

An inside look on the much anticipated film Life of Pi.

life of pi

Life of Pi comes to the big screen (in 3-D) on November 21, in director Ang Lee’s forthcoming adaptation of the bestselling 2001 novel by Yann Martel.

As with any cinematic adaptation of a thoughtful and thought-provoking novel, it will be interesting to see how much of the main character’s subjective thoughts and interior “voice” will be successfully translated from the page to the screen. In the hands of a capable director such as Lee, we have every reason to be optimistic.

Much of the novel consists of a simple tale of sheer “man vs. nature” survival. Following a shipwreck that drowns the rest of his family en route from India to a new life in Canada, sixteen-year-old Piscine Molitor Patel (or “Pi” for short) is a youthful but resourceful castaway who manages to survive over seven months at sea.

Helplessly adrift aboard a lifeboat and a makeshift raft amid the vast emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, Pi must not only avoid succumbing to hunger, thirst, storms, and sharks, but all the while also somehow peacefully coexist with another surviving castaway -- a deadly 450-pound Bengal tiger, with whom Pi shares his lifeboat.

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But woven throughout the narrative are some religious perspectives and spiritual themes that many readers may resonate with, while others may instead find them provocative or even challenging.

Pi himself is the very soul of inter-religious openness. Before leaving India with his family on their ill-fated sea voyage, the boy adopts an innovative routine of rotating multi-religious devotional practices; he begins worshipping regularly at a Catholic church, as well as at a Muslim mosque, in addition to his own longstanding and continuing worship at a Hindu temple.

When discovered, their teen son’s enthusiastic embrace of multiple religions simultaneously is a source of some confusion to Pi’s parents, as well as a source of significant consternation to the Catholic priest, Muslim imam, and Hindu pandit of those respective houses of worship Pi regularly frequents.

In an amusing sequence in which bemused parents and incensed clergy together confront Pi regarding his highly unorthodox commitment to a plurality of faiths, the boy responds with a simple but heartfelt observation: “Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God.”

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