Posted by: deadmousediaries | December 6, 2012

Life of Pi – a Movie Review from Mitchell Kyd

So. Have you heard the one about the Catholic, the Hindu and the Muslim who shared a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger and a boy named after a swimming pool? The punch line is great: “We get to feel guilty in front of hundreds of gods.” And so it goes in the life of Piscine Molitor Patel, known to all as Pi.

Why has the theater been empty? Where are the thinkers, the seekers and the rest of  the story tellers like me?  Who else in my small part of the world has seen through the 3D hype of new technical masterpiece and latched on to the promise of a great story that was dangled in the previews and artfully delivered in Life of Pi?

I took myself on a date for my first viewing in a kind of after-Thanksgiving treat; I was the only one in the theater.  If it hadn’t been the late show, I would have stayed for a rewind, before any of my questions could have time to get erased in sleep or gobbled up by the routine of an ordinary day that followed. Instead, I had to wait until the next evening and I coaxed my daughter and her friend to join me. There were six of us–total–at that showing. I went again a few days later after convincing another small group of friends that Life of Pi isa must-see if you like a tale that delivers more questions than answers. We made up half the audience.

Promoters have tagged this as the “next Avatar.”  Yes, the CG work is astounding but the production is much more than masterful manipulation.  I admit that the simple, visual pleasures of the opening scene were lost on me the first time I settled into my seat. I wasted them in anticipation of the main event but I was quiet and open to their delights the second time around.  I do know that the ghosts of  Mycheal Danna’s music score followed me home that very first night. This soundtrack is now on my Christmas list and I plan to allow Pi’s Lullaby to transport me to the magical past of Pondicherry every cold and wintry morning.

To those of you have been considering buying a ticket, don’t let me mislead you: this is not a happy tale. It does have some dazzling light moments but it is the intricacy of the story that I  loved. Be prepared;  there are cycle-of-life kinds of violence and scenes that are hard to watch so don’t go with the intention of leaving happy or mindlessly uplifted. Everyone I’ve talked to who read the book or watched the movie looking only to be entertained was disappointed –or worse. But, if you like to work on untangling what you saw on the screen long after the closing credits roll, this movie will provide that.

The movie production is beautiful veneer wrapped around an ageless story. The seamless graphics allow us to follow orphaned Pi in a state of suspended disbelief as we watch his life unfold.  We are carried powerless into a world of amazing coincidence and we are entertained.  But novelist Yann Martel and director Ang Lee have implanted subtleties in the storyline that only the thinkers and the seekers will choose to unwrap.  They will make the story their own as Pi struggles to make sense of his life, his destiny, his relationship with gods and God. We open those gifts and ruminate and this is the reward of repeated viewings, even when the shiny has worn off the technical accomplishment and the sensory pleasures of a fabulous film.

Some movie-goers will understand and others will miss the crux of  the closing minutes. For me, it was that poignant revelation — comfortably veiled — that helped me get closer to understanding what the great writers do: they convince viewers, listeners and readers to contemplate the power of story. In the end, the Catholic, the Hindu, the  Muslim, the boy and the tiger melded and Pi called upon the healing power of story to put his experience into a framework that made some future happiness possible. I hope you will honor them all by sharing their passage on the big screen. I may see you there.



  1. I went to see this movie also and was one of ten in the theater. I actually went by myself to see and was glad that I did since it allowed me to truly focus and analyze from different perspectives. I found the island interesting and thought how true it is, if we stay still, the world (island) will eat us up. I was sad many times during this movie, but truly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone that is a deep thinker.

    Thanks for writing about this movie and I am glad that you enjoyed also.

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