One of Ang Lee’s finest films (after ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (2000)), ‘Life of Pi’ (2012) received wide acclaim due to its mastery of storytelling and its wonderful use of 3-D effects which made the movie a truly, visually spectacular experience. With its use of some truly beautiful cinematography and wonderful storytelling we’re transported into the world of Pi Patel and his miraculous story of being hit by a tragic shipwreck and surviving the Pacific Ocean along with one of the earth’s fiercest creatures – The Royal Bengal Tiger in his 227-day journey before being rescued. Based on the novel of the same by author Yann Martel, the movie does justice to the book by re-telling a compelling story. Nominated for eleven Oscars, Life of Pi was a landmark cinema.
We already established that Life of Pi is an achievement in visual storytelling. But there remains one aspect of the film that needs detail discussion: its ending. That’s why this article. While there have been several theories about what the ending of the film meant, I wanted to offer my take on it. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan), an Indian immigrant from Pondicherry who’s now living in Montreal, Canada is approached by novelist Yann Martel (Rafe Spall) who comes to visit him on the recommendation of Pi’s Uncle who assured him that Pi’s life story would truly make a great book. Pi agrees to tell him his life story.
The movie introduces us to Pi whose father Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain) names him ‘Piscine Molitor’ after a famous swimming pool in France on the recommendation of his Uncle who adored swimming in that pool. Unfortunately, the poor kid is subjected to a lot of teasing by his classmates who call him “Pissing Patel”. Fed up with being taunted continuously, Piscine one day changes his name to ‘Pi Patel’, a sound-alike nickname after the Greek mathematical symbol. His parents Santosh Patel and Gita Patel (Tabu) own a zoo to which Pi takes an interest, especially with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. One day, Pi tries to free the tiger without letting his father know by feeding the tiger meat and thereby endangering his life. His father intervenes and angrily scolds him by saying that the Tiger is a wild animal and is not be taken as a friend. He proves his point by teaching Pi a valuable lesson by forcing him to witness the tiger killing a goat.
Pi is raised to be a vegetarian in a Hindu family but at the age of 12, is drawn into other religions like Christianity and Islam and decides to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God”. But his father warns him that Pi needs to take a secular outlook when it comes to religion.