A Postmodern Tale

I recently viewed the new movie Life of Pi.   The movie is pictorially beautiful.  One almost wishes they would have lingered on some frames longer, they are so gorgeous.  The acting is also well done along with all the other technical aspect of moving making.  Ang Lee, the director (Sense and Sensibility; Brokeback Mountain among others) always manages the technical aspects of movie making very well.

But what sparked my interest in the movie were the reviews I had read.  Some seemed to think it a spiritual wishy-washy, new age, believe whatever you want type movie, while others sensed that the movie might be going a little deeper than that.  My take on it is that it is one of best movies to come along that is explicitly a postmodern movie.  The critical question the movie asks is:  “Which is the better story?”

The main (human) character in the movie, the boy Pi, is a spiritually sensitive person.  The family lives in the southern part of India.  He is open to transcendence and becomes a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim.  His father, representing the modern rationalist, tells his son that he should try “reason.”  He believes only in “science” and reason.  At one point he tells Pi that he cannot be a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim all at the same time, because to “believe in everything, is to believe in nothing.”

 
The crux of the story involves the family moving their zoo business (thus animals) from India to Canada.  There is a storm that sinks the boat and Pi loses his family.  He survives, along with some of the other animals including Richard Parker, a digitally rendered and beautiful (but intimidating) tiger.  The story involves his survival on the open seas, along with this tiger, in the same small boat.

He survives, along with Richard Parker (funny story as to how the tiger was named), and is eventually rescued.  But he has this story of how he survived.  He is the only human witness.  He is the only human that experienced what he did.  He has a view of what happened to him and what it might mean.

But is his story true?  At the beginning of the movie, we are told that Pi has a story that could make one “believe in God.”  We never “see” God anywhere.  We never see God throw a lightning bolt.  We never see a miracle.  We never see anything supernatural.  So where is God?  Well, that may be the point.  Because depending upon which story you believe and what one is willing to “see” it is possible that God and signals of transcendence are everywhere in this movie.  So, which story will we believe and what are we willing and open to “seeing”?
 
It is also good to see that the postmodern turn continues to move from the academy to popular culture, which is normally a sign of long term shift in a culture’s thinking.
 
Here, here and here are some interesting links regarding the movie.  
 
 
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2 Responses to A Postmodern Tale

  1. Burk Braun says:

    ” Because depending upon which story you believe and what one is willing to “see” it is possible that God and signals of transcendence are everywhere in this movie. So, which story will we believe and what are we willing and open to “seeing”?”

    Well, that does sum it up, does it not? One can see religion as an “unforced error” in the use of imagination. Suppose Mr Parker were believed to be a deity, that is another way of “seeing”, which would perhaps have cut the film short.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Yes, there are indeed many ways to “see” things, including atheism and agnosticism.

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