Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life of Pi in 3-D

Life of Pi

One of the films creating buzz this Holiday Season is the Ang Lee directed film Life of Pi. While some are comparing this film to Avatar visually, I personally found that comparison ridiculous. While strong visually, Life of Pi is far from Avatar, especially in the 3-D version but the story and plot is deeply moving and the film is exceptionally made. While I believe Ang Lee has been overrated as a director, he shines in this movie about a young man cast into difficult circumstances, by being on a life boat in the middle of the ocean with a hyena, zebra, orangutan and ultimately the fiercest of all, a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The story starts with the young Pi struggling in school and ultimately at a young age starting a spiritual quest that has him appreciating and following concepts within Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Throughout the film, the prevailing theme is on his search for God thus making this film, in my opinion, one of the most spiritual films ever released.

 Life of Pi is technically brilliant. It is a feast for the eyes and in some early sequences involving the storm that sinks the transport ship Pi and his family are on one can almost become physically sick, especially if seeing this movie on the big screen and in 3-D as it should be seen. The strength of Life of Pi over movies like Avatar and others which have focused in the past on the technology is the inclusion here of a deeply moving story. The movie outside of a few visual sequences is story and dialog focused, but don’t let that fool you. For those able to focus and appreciate story, it is also thought provoking and incredibly entertaining with some heart pounding sequences thrown in. In its entertainment value is the willingness to openly address the spiritual search of Pi. The screenplay is close to the book of the same name which has received a great deal of recognition and acclaim. I have seen few films that are as special effects driven with as much story and plot. Pulling this off is difficult to do especially when considering the CGI and Animation used in the film. It is so good that most of the time, you can’t tell what is real and what isn’t. It is that quality which also helps add to the credibility of the film. The moving score and music used also contribute to the beauty of Life of Pi.

Lee directs this film brilliantly as we see the struggles of Pi as he grows up. We see his search for spiritual truth. He grows up in India and is subjected to Hinduism. He has aspects of it that he appreciates and tries to follow, it is the faith of his mother, but his father, a man of science largely rejects all religion in favor of his view of science. It isn’t that he is opposed to Pi’s search, he even makes his point clear, he would rather Pi believe in one thing as truth than to believe in all things that can’t all be true. As Pi grows older he is challenged to drink Holy Water out of a Catholic Church by some young friends. He goes in and has an encounter with the Catholic Priest. While there he observes the life of Jesus in the murals in the church. He asks the priest the question of how it is that a loving God could do what He did to His son in the crucifixion of Jesus. As the youth contemplates the answer from the priest he goes on to become what he calls a follower of Jesus. We see him throughout the film praying and reflecting on God and the person of Christ. Later on Pi also comes into contact with Islam and finds aspects of that faith that he also appreciates and chooses to follow. Through out the film we see this struggle and dedication to God from Pi, especially in the later years as he goes through the growing pains of a teenage boy and later on in the ultimate struggle of being stranded alone on a life boat for almost a year with a Bengal Tiger. We also see this in his adulthood from the beginning of the film. We always know of Pi’s survival as the story has him sharing his life as an older man with a Canadian reporter. Pi is older, had time to reflect on his life and God and shares his story which has been told and known by many as a way to ultimately prove the existence of God. It is here the prevailing plot has the viewer reminded of the reality that Pi his story to show others the reality and existence of God.

I have seen some prominent Christian reviewers critical of this film because they don’t like that Pi adopts and has appreciation to three religions. I found the film outstanding for its honest search into truth from all religions, certainly these three. The person of Jesus and his example of love is one that has the most lasting impact on Pi’s life. The issue for me is the willingness to address that search in an honest way. While I may not agree with or accept the final decision Pi makes, a kind of acceptance of all three religions, the concept of understanding and an honest search is something we should all encourage. As a person of faith, it is critical that I have a belief in God honoring the promise that he will reveal himself to those honestly seeking. I also hold that from a spiritual, Christian, and intellectual way, it doesn’t take much of a search in real life to understand that the deeper concepts of God can’t all be true in such diverse belief systems. That isn’t to knock other belief systems in any way, but the words of Jesus at various points, the emphasis on the Bible in many places that all indicate the individual salvation offered only by Jesus and him alone is difficult and I believe, impossible to negate. One has to seriously search what Jesus meant when he said “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Or the Bible says, “There is no other name under heaven which can provide salvation other than the name of Jesus.” Pi, even addresses this as he reflects on God and Jesus love and quotes John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I find the challenge in this search as to which belief system to follow appropriate and insightful. While not all viewers will come to the same conclusion, they will have to do something with the implications from the Bible and the words of Jesus, even the quote from the Bible Pi uses. I found an appreciation for the willingness of Pi to respect other religions and to seek out knowledge of those religions. I also appreciated his honest search in both the good and bad times as he says finding God, “In the most unexpected ways.”

While Life of Pi may not be a perfect film, it is strongly moving and thought provoking, wait, I have already said that, but let me also say again, the search for spiritual truth has likely not been addressed as well in any major theatrical release in some time. There is definitely something going on in our society. Just as Life of Pi addresses the spiritual search, we are seeing other movies, doing the same thing. While others will have different tactics and methods, it is hard to imagine any presenting the search as directly and as honestly as doe Pi. While some Christians are already upset at the conclusion, let me ask, why? Are we afraid of our own inability or the inability of others to discover truth? I would challenge even further, do we doubt the ability of the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself in ones search for truth? I don’t! I fully expect this film will not only entertain, it will become a modern day parable that points others to an honest search of God. It is as Pi indicates later in life; it is a measure of faith, but a faith that has done its search and one that relates to life experiences. God is around us, touching us, speaking to us, we just have to listen to hear it. While God speaks, I believe that sometimes He chooses to use us to speak His truth. That said, imagine having a discussion about Jesus with another who is seeking truth that has seen this movie. We can see God in his words, provisions; and His creation. As for me, I think we can also see him in film, including films like Life of Pi.

Life of Pi isn’t a perfect film, but it is close, it is very good and well worth the cost of seeing it in 3-D. On a scale of 1 – 10 for the near perfection that is contained, I give it a very enthusiastic 9. Now make sure to see this sure fire block buster film likely to receive multiple Oscar Nominations, I suspect from 4 – 7 and an outside chance at even more.

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