Life of Pi--Movie Review
"Life of Pi", rated PG, is a current adventure-fantasy movie based upon a 2001 novel of the same title by Yann Martel. The novel title sometimes appears on high school reading lists as recommended or required, depending on a student's classes.
From a Christian perspective, what does "Life of Pi" teach?
First, "Life of Pi" is a movie. Movies are visual. Visual images have a way of entering the brain and staying there for a lifetime in a way that words and even sounds do not. Visually, "Life of Pi" intrigues with multiple scenes of visionesque imagery of the ocean, sky, and land which most of us have never seen nor will see in real life. While there are brief scenes of animals attacking and eating other animals, most of the killing and eating seems to occur off-camera, allowing our own minds to fill in or ignore the details. The scenes of animal blood and violence do not seem overwhelming, but tastefully done, no pun intended. Gore is not the point of the movie. But even though the visual artistry of "Life of Pi" is magical, I doubt that six months from now I will be recalling its images.
Second, what is the movie's ideology? "Life of Pi" is based upon a novel. As most novels, this novel is the product of one man's world-view, Yann Martel. Running a little over two hours, the bulk of the movie is, as it were, a parable of a particular character's world-view, a teenage boy coming of age in a world of violence outside himself and within. As such, I am reminded of the novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 novel also about boys stranded after a shipwreck, also about coming of age in the presence of good and evil, also made into movies, and also required high school reading.
In the movie the adult Pi is being interviewed by a man who will most probably write his story into a novel. As the narrative unfolds, we see the adult Pi looking back upon the adventure of his teenage shipwreck and the loss of his entire family, which was due in part to the wickedness of another person, whom Pi himself vengefully killed, but off-camera and presented as a verbal memory of that event.
By the end of the narrative, the adult Pi focuses his listener, including the movie audience, upon these questions: In a world that contains extreme wickedness, how could an all-powerful God, whether Hindi, Islamic, or Christian, exist? The reverse of that question is: Doesn't the presence of extreme wickedness negate the presence of God? And most importantly: Does it matter if God is real or not? Isn't what we think about Him all that counts?
The movie uses the adult Pi to answer these questions for the viewer. God is a story. Because He is a better story to contemplate than an evil world without God, most people will want to choose a story for themselves that has God in it.
Thirdly, is the movie Christian? Most definitely not. Although it is true that as a child, Pi expressed to his family a desire to be baptized in response to the "love" of Christ as seen in His sacrifice for our sins upon the cross, we hear next to nothing about Christ after that point. According to Pi, and apparently to the movie's own world-view, it really doesn't matter too much which god one chooses to believe and worship--indeed, the gods can be mixed and matched. As Pi said, there are "millions of gods". It is to Vishnu that Pi prayed for help while stranded in the lifeboat and to Vishnu he apparently credits his rescue from the sea.
So, why make such a fuss? As in, why should I spend all the time necessary to think through this, write a review, and post it on my Bible.org users' blog? Isn't it, as the cliché goes, "just a movie"?
It seems to me that the point of the movie is to say that "God is a story". I love adventure movies. I've watched "Star Wars", "Jurassic Park", "Men in Black", and many others. Those kinds of movies do not, however, ever propel me to write reviews of their philosophical world-view. World-view is not their point--adventure is. I feel strongly that world-view is the point of "Life of Pi".
Having taken on the role of a Christian movie reviewer in this particular blog, I want to caution parents to take the PG rating seriously. A child of Christian parents should not watch this movie without Christian guidance. Who is Yann Martel, the novel's author, that I should be influenced by his world-view above the word of God, the Bible?
Interestingly to myself, the ladies' Bible group I attend is currently studying 2 Peter. The morning after I watched the movie, 2 Peter 3:17-18 leaped off the page at me.
NET 2 Peter 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.
While I don't know about anyone who may be reading this, I do know that my own Christian "stability", as the Revised Standard Version translates "firm grasp on the truth", did not come easily to me. I fought for it through many challenges over a period of many years.
The Bible is packed from verse one to its closing with answers to the questions, "How can evil exist in a world that a good God created?" and, "Is God real, or is He just a story that men create in various forms to help them through the challenges of their lives?"
According to the Bible, God is real, and it most definitely matters what we think of the God of the Bible. Our invention of a god of our own fashioning and choosing does not determine the truth or falsehood of the real, biblical God's existence. He exists as the Bible states, apart from whether or not we believe in Him. The Bible contains an absolute truth about an absolute God, the God who created the world and everything in it, who alone defines good and evil absolutely. The absolute God dealt with the absolute of sin in an absolutely perfect way through His Son Jesus Christ and Him alone.
That is the stability of my faith that I must guard as I expose myself to the relativism of the movie, "Life of Pi".