I have not enjoyed many of the movies that have come to us in the 3-D format; there are too many hokey effects, the screen is too dark. But then some filmmakers use it as more than just a faddish attempt to make more money.
“Life of Pi” belongs to the latter category.
Directed by Ang Lee, “Life of Pi” fills the screen with images of depth and wonder. It is a filmmaking marvel and a story about the faith journey of a young man.
Pi, played by four actors at various stages of life, is a religion junkie. He seems to fly from one faith to another with ease.
He begins as a young Hindu, but dabbles in Christianity and Islam. As an adult, he calls himself a Hindu Catholic. The story follows his journey of understanding about God.
The core of the story is his experience on a ship and the events afterward. His family owns a zoo in India, but it is moving the zoo to Canada. As they make their way over the seas, a storm sinks the ship.
Pi ends up on a lifeboat – with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger. He develops a survival strategy that involves a raft to stay off the lifeboat. But that approach eventually becomes impossible.
As they travel, Pi goes through stages of relinquishing himself to God. He prays for help, but help does not come. Pi prays for God to take his life in surrender, but nothing happens. Finally, he prays that he welcomes what is coming quickly: his death.
While this is going on, Pi becomes more and more connected to the tiger. A sort of interdependence develops.
“Life of Pi” offers a glorious palette of the relationship between this person, this journeyer called Pi, and the Almighty.
Ang Lee presents us with a visual parable of what it means to go on the spiritual journey. The movie is a metaphor for what the life of faith looks like.
Early in the movie, little Pi has developed a relationship with a Catholic priest in his hometown.
Pi returns over and over to ask questions about God’s motivation. One of the big questions: Why does God allow Jesus to suffer on the cross? Pi does not understand why God would allow such a thing to happen.
The priest says the death on the cross was a demonstration of God’s love for us. God’s love is what motivates all that happens.
Though not a journey any sane person would want to take, “Life of Pi” shows a journey of faith. It is full of suffering, but also an understanding greater than suffering.
In a time when we seem to have itchy ears for easy answers to life’s questions, “Life of Pi” offers that God is with us. When we cannot seem to take another step, God accompanies us another mile.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.
Director: Ang Lee
Writer: David Magee (based on a novel by Yann Martel)
Cast: Suraj Sharma: Pi Patel; Irrfan Khan: Adult Pi; Ayush Tandon: Pi (age 11/12); Gautam Belur: Pi (age 5); Adil Hussain: Santosh Patel; Tabu: Gita Patel.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.