A surreal story about a boy called Pi (Suraj Sharma) who is a Hindu, Muslim and Catholic, and who after a shipwreck ends up stranded on a life boat with a dangerous Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. Actually initially there was also a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena, but you can probably guess what happened to them. If Pi wants to survive he has to keep the tiger from eating him, and that means either keeping a safe distance from the boat (by building a raft) or keeping the tiger well fed, something which is getting harder as food supplies dwindle.
It’s a tragic – Pi has lost his family in the shipwreck – yet often beautiful and charming film, with a dream like lyrical quality. There’s both a symbolism and an unrealness that pervade the film. You will look at many scenes of the boat floating in a clear still idyllic ocean framed by the setting or rising sun and wonder can this really be real? Or is it a dream? Or a mixture of both? That is for you to decide and ultimately the film will cleverly ask “What would you prefer to be true?” at the same neatly paralleling most peoples’ reasons for their religious beliefs. Thankfully the film does settle the question of the story’s veracity once and for all in the final scene, and it’s a better film for giving the viewer closure.
I found this to be a refreshing film, and the story of Pi’s relationship with his tiger companion is both well told and compelling. Pleasingly their relationship never reaches full familiarity – it would seem corny if it did – but they do begin to approach a sort of tolerance of each other, almost a mutual understanding. Although I did enjoy the story and the insight into human belief given to me at the end, I also found the movie as a whole to be a little unsatisying and not as meaningful or rewarding as it wanted to be at it’s conclusion. It’s reminiscent of a joke where the set-up is much better than the punchline.