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Wednesday
Dec052012

The Lady or The Tiger: Ambiguity and Life of Pi 

Michael C. here. I hope everyone has had a chance to see Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I’ve been dying to dive into spoiler territory since the film’s premiere at the New York Film Festival. 

If you haven’t seen the film I recommend you do. Lee has created a visually magnificent fable that transfers the book’s expansive imagination to the screen better than I thought possible. It’s a terrific return to form for Lee following the face plant that was Taking Woodstock

But then there’s that nagging problem of that ending. I’ve struggled with it in the book and now I struggle with it in the film. Try as I might, I just can’t get behind it. 

Detailed SPOILERS follow… 

As you will recall the film’s conclusion involves Pi recounting his amazing journey to a pair of skeptical investigators. When they tell Pi they find his story impossible to believe, Pi responds by telling them a different version of his survival at sea, a warped reflection of the original events with many overlapping details. In this new version rather than being stranded with zoo animals Pi is lost at sea with human survivors, his mother, a cook and an injured sailor. In these events the cook murders both the sailor and Pi’s mother before he is killed by Pi out of self-defense and revenge.

After finishing with his darker, more plausible version of events, Pi leaves it to the investigators to choose which they believe. They investigators opt for the more wondrous explanation. In a framing scene, older Pi agrees that he too prefers the story with the tiger. 

I respect the boldness of this narrative gambit. Martel is reaching for the stars here, and Lee was gutsy to transfer it to the screen, where the literal nature of the medium makes it an even tougher sell. I admit that it’s thematically on point, tying nicely back into the religious searching of the prologue. Logically it should work. Yet for me something about it that rankles. My brain rebels. I don’t buy it.

I don’t have trouble with ambiguous endings. That’s not the problem. I’m sure some will accuse me of not getting it, but I doubt anyone reading this has much trouble tracking the religious symbolism of choosing to believe the more fanciful explanation of things, despite a lack of concrete evidence.

I think my difficulty has to do with the way ambiguity is imposed on the material rather than growing organically out of it. It makes sense for the investigators to doubt the tall tale, but after spending ninety minutes experiencing every detail of his journey it doesn’t play to have Pi offer up his grim twist on The Wizard of Oz’s “It was all a dream” ending. I hear the author speaking here, not Pi. Reducing the story to such a blunt metaphor causes the allegory to overwhelm the narrative when it should be humming beneath the surface. When that happens I disengage emotionally and it becomes an intellectual exercise in connecting the symbolic dots.

Another problem with this device: It stacks the deck. No fair giving the opposition a single downer monologue after the other side enjoyed a two-hour parade of wonders. It’s the narrative equivalent of threatening to return all my Christmas presents if I won’t say I believe in Santa. Compare that with the ambiguity of something like Pan’s Labyrinth, which plays fair with the viewer, giving equal footing to both the fantastic and the realistic interpretations.

For me, the most powerful moment of the Life of Pi is when Pi finally make landfall and the tiger disappears into the forest without so much as a backwards glance. It’s such a simple, graceful expression of man’s desire to project humanity onto an indifferent universe. Moments like that only serve to make the clumsy, forced ambiguity of the ending all the more frustrating.

I know a lot of people out there find the ending of Pi extremely moving. If you are one of them I invite you to persuade me of its virtues. Even with my reservations I am an admirer of film and would be all too pleased to have my opinion of it improved. For now the ending remains a substantial sticking point.

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Reader Comments (30)

I didn't think the ending of Life of Pi was moving or inspiration. I thought it was a punch to the gut and a shocking alternative. We're presented with a story told by a man who has no shortage of elaborate, beautiful stories to answer every question about his life. His reliability as a narrator comes down to how much you believe the tall tales he tells from the start.

I personally didn't believe a word of the family history or schoolyard shenanigans on the page or the screen. Yet, I wanted to believe. The story he tells about being stranded at sea with the animals is beautiful and compelling. I wanted that to be the truth. I wanted to trust the narrator after being told all the fanciful personal folklore.

But when I saw the young Pi look straight into camera and deliver the uninterrupted alternative, I was suddenly lost. The narrator that finally gained my trust had betrayed me again with a story so grotesque we don't even get to see the details. It's almost an editorial confession. It's the author's notes at the end of the story revealing where they really came up with the idea to bring the reader in on the joke.

Powerful? Inspirational? Not to me. It is bold and ballsy and I applaud Ang Lee and David Magee for going there with the film.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I was a bit taken aback at the end of the film but I had no problem with the end the second time around. The film is just a such a pleasure to experience. The visual world Ang Lee presents is inspirational all on its own. And if you listen closely to the end of the report as read aloud by the interviewer you hear which ending is probably the real one. This is a film that improves on a second viewing, which I didn't expect.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Lets say the second story is true. Pi witnessed his mother's murder by the cook and then killed the cook. In the following 200+ days, he alone survived storms, hunger and his own guilt. He experienced the wonder and wrath of the nature and came to shore in Mexico. How would he tell the secular world what he had experienced and how would the world understand what he had gone through? If he decided to tell his story in the first whimsical version of him with his tiger, do you fault him? do you find his story less compelling, less miracle? I actually found his story much more powerful after I think through the ending.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZack

I loved the ending, mostly because it brilliantly works from all perspectives. It speaks more to the nature of belief and our struggle as human beings to understand if we are truly on the boat with the tiger, so to speak, or if we are simply reading too much into a simple telling of events. It's one of the great internal struggles of all time, belief in something "greater than." I understand Pi's statement about believing in God, but I think it just as handily is an argument that the truth is what lies underneath the parable, not the parable itself. It's a gorgeous take on belief without declaring either side to be truth.

Then comes the question of reality itself - and now we're in Matrix territory. :)

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Nat, I understand your point. But, as I haven't seen the film yet (but having read the Yann Martel's book, so I don't mind spoilers on this one), a question surges to me: as regards with the "device>" cinematically speaking, It seems to me is not at all that different from ATONEMENT, isn't it?. That editorial ending possibly had more sense coming from a novelist who had any right to change or alter the course of facts as it was ultimately a piece of fiction. That the writer decided to do so to atone for her lies and the collateral damages she actually created was the real shocker. Being Pi on the mystic side of things instead of the more plausible end of an old, articulate but very remorseful novelist sure don't help the cause. The question would be: Is it Pi atoning for something? His traumatic experience, maybe? To erase that memory for good? Or is it all a too facile symbolism for human/animal condition in general and he is only a charlatan on the way to becoming the next Sai Baba.? Take your guess here.
Besides, weren't ATONEMENT-lovers (the novel) shouting at the time it was impossible to translate it to film for that troulble ending, too?

As I was reading the final of LIFE OF PI, I inmediatly thought about ATONEMENT (the film) So I have another bunch of questions: aren't both these stories very close in their approch to closure? Aren't these protagonits both gifted with unparalleled imagination, too? Does it really matters if old Briony was not ambiguous at all about her altering the version of what actually happened, whereas Pi, with no writer's pretention or guilt as excuse, left us dangling with our own closure?

If Lee, as you mention, is literal about the book ending, I don't see why such problems with the cinematic "device" he used. On the contrary, I see in much of the (negative) critics reviews of LIFE OF PI problems with the quasi-religious overtones of that ending. Not so mucf for the way it is portrayed.

Maybe the smartass and agnostic Briony thought she could be God-forgiving when she confessed her secrets in public. Maybe the smartass and pantheistic Pi didn't need to demosntrate that kind of remorse, because, you know, al that could have happened to him in that boat was not really HIS fault, if we are to believe in his own words.

But I though the parallels were intringuing to bring them out. I wonder, Nat , what was so satisfying to you in the ending device used for ATONEMENT (with no concrete evidence as we was presented with only the old Briony telling her story in a TV interview and few flashbacks sequences that doesn't really add up to the confession itself) that frustates you so much in PI.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

Chofer, interesting point about Atonement, but there are some key differences if you ask me. In Atonement, we're shown throughout that Briony is a storyteller and that she wants to be a writer. That she would have written the story-- a complete fabrication-- that we just saw involves groundwork that was laid at the start of the movie. In Life of Pi, we know that Pi thinks a lot about religion, but the fact that he'd make up this entire new story seems much more out of left-field.

Then there's the way that alternate reality (in LoP) / reality-reality (in Atonement) is exposed in the film. In Atonement, it's tacked on at the end to wrap up the conflict of the movie (that is, Briony's internal conflict). In Life of Pi, it abruptly introduces a whole new level of conflict in the last ten minutes of the movie. To me, it just came across as a trick.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Having only read the book, I think that the ending of Life of Pi is fundamental to it and that's what makes it so ambitious and powerful. It's very hard to pull off a "it was only a dream" but without it the book would be only a fantastic tale about survival, instead of a deep medidation about faith and storytelling. You have to give credit to artel to have the guts to smash his narrative in such a spectacular way. He was so BOLD. I see that some people think it is not organic, mas I think this rupture is what makes the whole book so heartbreaking. His writing is so beautiful, every word so damn beautifully poetic, every sentence so spot on that this gambit pays off a lot. You have to be a helluva writer to dare something like that. Of course we've seen a lot of unreliable narrators forever, but there are very few that used this device to make such a powerful point about human beings and our need of storytelling, fiction, religion and everything that makes us go through our lives.

That said, when I read what Nathaniel said about the movie, I must say that I saw it coming, because it's such a tricky ending to pull off with the rich prose of Martel. With his words, everything there sounds perfect, but how to make such a bold point like this is a more narrative-driven media like film? It sounds banal, Wizard of Oz-ish, I know. I think that was the main reason why people said it was so hard to adapt.

Atonement, for example, that, how choffer remind us, has a very similar ending in terms of structure, was not able at all to capture McEwan's coda. As a matter of fact it had to betray the book, since the most heartbreaking thing about Briony is that she couldn't talk at all about the true story behind. There was not an interview, in which she would be released of her guilt, or at least could be open about it. In the book, we're the only ones to know. In the book, we almost have a happy endiing because finally Briony can talk about it. The book was way more brutal.

Without having seen Life of Pi, the movie, I am not sure whether I'd like to see another ending or a betrayal of the original ending. Of course it's hard to pull off but it's still the whole point of this particular story.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I just wanted to respond to your second issue with the ending, because I've noticed that this has been brought up by other critics. So yes, the two stories are presented differently in terms of structure: one is presented as a traditional film, and the other is presented as a monologue. But it’s not about having the stories on equal ground. Ang Lee deliberately lets the audience imagine the second story in their minds, which is often a more powerful way to experience a story, especially one with the horrors this one has (Critics seem to agree that it’s what you don’t see in horror films that is the most effective). If you view this as a parallel with faith and reason, Lee is inverting the argument to ask the audience: Do you prefer the story in your mind, or the story that you experienced with your physical senses? By forcing the audience to imagine the second story, he is reversing the dichotomy between how we experience the world through religion/spirituality and through our physical senses. In Ang Lee's world, it is the more fantastical story that we get to physically hear and see, and it's the more "realistic" story that we have to form only in our minds. I thought it was a brilliant choice.

At the same time, I do think the author of the book and the director take a side in this, as it shows in the craft of their work. I think this film is ultimately an argument for an alternative kind of storytelling. And I think that's perfectly fine. I love works of art that have a point a view, works that stand for something. I also love more ambiguous works that rely upon the viewer to complete the picture. But these are just different ways of approaching the art form. I think the key to determining the value of the work is in how well the artist is communicating his/her viewpoint. I think LIFE OF PI makes a pretty compelling argument.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuffReader

@RuffReader
Thank you for pointing out the dichotomous pairing between the physical+fantastical, and the contemplated+more realistic versions of the story. Thinking about this, I also agree it is an inspired directorial choice, adding complexity to the audience's interpretations--and not as unfairly "stacking the deck" toward one side as Michael C's finds.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersosowie

Hey folks. It’s Michael “Not Nathaniel” Cusumano, AKA the author of this post, here.

I love the comparison to Atonement’s ending. (I love all these comments for that matter. Threads like this give comment sections a good name)

I think the ending of Atonement works better for a few reasons. Briony is the film’s third lead, an outsider and an established storyteller to boot. So it is not as alienating to have her pull a fakeout as it is when Pi does it. She is shown clearly to be an unreliable fabricator from the start, so it is natural for her to tease us with a false catharsis. I’m not convinced the proper groundwork was laid to have us question Pi's story similarly. Furthermore she only pulls the rug out from one specific section late in the film. She doesn’t upend the bulk of the story as Pi does. For the ending of Pi to work I must feel torn between the two possibilities but the tale has way too much convincing detail about dealing with an honest to god real tiger to just throw it all overboard.

I find the philosophical arguments in the endings favor very persuasive. This is part of the problem as feels too much like the concluding paragraph of a thesis paper. And it’s a fine thesis paper. It just doesn't work dramatically.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Hey folks. It’s Michael “Not Nathaniel” Cusumano, AKA the author of this post, here.

I love the comparison to Atonement’s ending. (I love all these comments for that matter. Threads like this give comment sections a good name)

I think the ending of Atonement works better for a few reasons. Briony is the film’s third lead, an outsider and an established storyteller to boot. So it is not as alienating to have her pull a fakeout as it is when Pi does it. She is shown clearly to be an unreliable fabricator from the start, so it is natural for her to tease us with a false catharsis. I’m not convinced the proper groundwork was laid to have us question Pi's story similarly. Furthermore she only pulls the rug out from one specific section late in the film. She doesn’t upend the bulk of the story as Pi does. For the ending of Pi to work I must feel torn between the two possibilities but the tale has way too much convincing detail about dealing with an honest to god real tiger to just throw it all overboard.

I find the philosophical arguments in the endings favor very persuasive. This is part of the problem as feels too much like the concluding paragraph of a thesis paper. And it’s a fine thesis paper. It just doesn't work dramatically.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I love that Ang Lee took this project. He is a perfect fit since he has been work with reason-nature dichotomies since ever, like Tiger/Dragon, Bruce/Hulk, Jack/Ennis, Lust/Caution and, ofcourse, Sense and Sensibility.

I can wait for it to open overseas. I am so obsessed by this book!

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Great point, cal roth, I hadn't made the thematic connection to his other works.

I want to also touch on the unreliable narrator idea. I think we do get a sense of how Pi's mind works early on, to the point where the revelation at the end of the film makes sense for this character. Essentially, the whole story of LIFE OF PI can be seen as a confirmation of syncretism, how mish-mashing disparate beliefs together helps Pi understand and cope with the realities of the world. In the beginning of the film, we see Pi finding meaning in aspects of different belief systems. We see how enraptured Pi is by a Hindu parable his mom is reading him. His first religion (Hinduism) is itself a collection of "superheroes", so we understand the basis for why Pi is interested in collecting a superteam of religious ideas. This idea is further reflected in the zoo, being a collection of disparate organisms placed in a wholly artificial environment for the benefit of entertainment and knowledge gathering. Pi's story is itself a potpurri of action, adventure, comedy romance involving the interaction of a hodgepodge of animals. As the story becomes more and more fantastical with the discovery of the man-eating island, it becomes easier to see beneath the surface, that maybe Pi is weaving his own parable for us.

I guess what I'm trying to argue here is that, upon reflection, the ending doesn't come out of nowhere. I can understand it being jarring at first, but it's consistent with the character and the themes that the film creates from the beginning.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuffReader

First of all, I LOVE the comparison to Atonement. I read Life of Pi in early 2008 after having just seen and read Atonement (which I count as one of my favorite movies and books of all time). I thought of the two immediately, and, while the ending of life of Pi hit me SO hard in the book, I do agree that the ending of the film left me feeling flat... but for very different reasons.
First of all, I disagree that the ending is intended to be seen as ambiguous at all. When I read the book and saw the film, I thought that the the reader/viewer is meant to see that the human narrative is the real one, but that Pi's decision to tell the animal narrative is significant. I think it demonstrates the role that religion plays in allowing people to cope with a terrible reality. Religion, like Pi's animal narrative, represents that which is not necessarily literal but still gives life meaning and provides the individual with strength necessary to face tribulations.
However, I think that the contrast between the terrible reality and fantastical story must be made very clear. In the book, Yann Martel goes into fairly graphic detail about his mother's decapitation and the Cook's cannibalism. As a result, one can easily understand why Pi has chosen to focus on another narrative as a coping mechanism. Film, as a visual medium, could theoretically have presented this contrast incredibly well, but using a short monologue was the safer route. For such an expensive, risky film, I think the studio needed a PG rating so that it could be marketed as an "all audience adventure" like it has been. That ending is not meant for all audiences, and the fact that there were children in my theater concerned me. This is an example of financial concerns distorting the material in my opinion; and it is unfortunate.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

The 'lady or the tiger' ending redeems the fairy tale of the plot and the visuals. I cannot stop thinking about this movie, because at the end we are asked to contemplate, in no special order: Freudian substitution, the purpose of storytelling, tolerance of other religious beliefs, a reference to the story "The Lady and the Tiger". Also, you will never look at your cats the same way again.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterokbyme

I loved the ending. The initial juxtaposition eventually makes way for a flood of clarity. And I think the island metaphor explains things perfectly. That Pi's ability to survive another day is impeccably contrasted by the overwhelming horror and guilt he must face as a result of what he witnessed and his subsequent actions, as reflected inthe nightime acid and self erosion. Naturally we don't want to believe the truth, but the alternative is as real and as interchangeable as the many religions Pi places his faith in. Wonderful.

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFletch

I agree with you about the moment when the tiger just walks off into the jungle. And I like the ambiguity imposed by people not believing his fantastical tale or the idea that we often believe the thing that provides us with meaning over truth. But you're right, the way it was so bluntly and in-artfully stated in the movie was a copout. I didn't read the book so I don't know if it was better executed there, but I think at that point in the movie Ang Lee was just in a rush to get to the ending because he was past the part of the story he was most interested in. Plus there was probably some pressure from the studio not to drag on the length of the expensive CGI movie starring and unfamous Indian where most of the humans die without so much as a Celine Dion song to cushion the blow.

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Fredda

The more time and effort Ang spent on the 2nd story inevitably would have reduced the believability of the 1st story and resultant ambiguity. I thought it was perfect.

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFletch

I think that the second story was the real one because it made more sense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Seinfeld

When the tiger didn't look back it reminded me of the farther and son in the shipwreck not looking back like it was the end. I thought the second story was the right one because the animal story was just a back up for the second because it was probably harder for the boy to tell what really happened with the deaths in front of him. I REALLY enjoyed this movie and i can't want for more.

January 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermeghan

Maybe I read too much into this, but for me, with the second version of the story, I felt the first was the version Pi had to construct for himself during the 200+ days he survived. Richard Parke--or the tiger--r was his darker self/side . . . the part of him that reacted in a wild frenzy (killing the cook, crazed catching/eating of flying fish, etc.) It was that part of himself that he had to tame . . . because it was a part of himself he had never seen as a child/student/traveler to a new life. It was a necessary part . . . survival perhaps required. He could not admit to that part of him easily, however, and so, as a coping mechanism perhaps, the scene that unfolded in the liferaft he explained in terms of what he had learned at the zoo. And when Richard Parker ran "into the jungle" upon landing in Mexico that day . . . it was the fact that part of himself . . . well, it was no longer needed for his survival. If, in fact, that side of Pi had triumphed . . . Pi would have been a different person when he landed on that beach. So many parallels . . . they both have bowel movements only once a month, they both go blind, and just before the end, Pi is sleeping as much as Richard Parker. Pi had to "take command" and show that darker side HE--the boy of faith, the boy of knowledge, the good side of Pi, was in charge . . . and he managed to keep the Richard Parker side of him subjugated or he might have . . . gone completely mad, not done all the rational things that allowed "them" to survive for such an incredible time, and not been the adult Pi with a cherished wife and children. He faced his darker side, controlled it for the most part, managed to "forgive" and "allow" the things that he hated that he had done on that life boat (the killing, the failure to save his mother, the eating of needed stores and even dried body pieces, etc.) through the whole animals on board story because then he did not have to acknowledge totally the truth of what had happened.

February 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusana

I believe it is simple.

In the first story: Pi is God and Richard Parker is Pi
If you believe in God you are more inclined to believe this amazing, first story.

Great Movie though.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill D

There is a third story. There was only Pi in the raft. The animals and events represent aspects of himself, and thus each of us. We has to deal with each one. We choose what aspects are "us". It also portrays the utter indifference of life (tiger disappearing into the forest). There is compassion, sharing, selfishness, violence, revenge, compromise, and so on. It shows that we choose the reality we wish to believe in spite of established facts. We believe in all sorts of fanciful thinking and intervening gods, or gods that don't intervene, but are still there. The tiger ino the forest is a convincing illustration that in the final analysis, the world is indifferent to humans and all living things, and that there is no god except those we wish to imagine for our personal story.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Prophet

I just saw the movie yesterday. I was very moved by the story and have mixed feelings about the ending. I can understand the experience of pouring one's heart out and sharing one's experience only to be told it is too fanciful. Not believable. Then giving an answer that will satisfy the questioner.....just to be done with it. However, instead of leaving it to us to ponder the wonder of this story, we are given a road map for an interpretation. To "help us out" so to speak. I don't know. I do know that the film was everything I had hoped for and more. It is refreshing to see such a spectacular story that is many layered. For those of us who just want a good yarn or a good action film, it is grand. For those of us on a spiritual journey, this is a beautiful tale that touches the heart and the spirit. I find that to be a brave thing to do in today's world. And, it is done with intelligence, beauty and sensitivity. After seeing it all by myself, with no one to talk to about it, I searched out a blog. Thanks for being here to share your thoughts and reactions.

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Mc

I think the human story was what actually happened. Pi used the animals in his mind to be able to deal with the situation. The tiger was a methphor for Pi's faith as he was constantly struggling with it throughout his journey. Once they finally reached shore the tiger left Pi without looking back because Pi was no longer struggling with his faith - he no longer needed the tiger to survive. He had survived and he knew it was because of God that he did survive. "Richard Parker" may have walked into the jungle without looking back, but he will always be with Pi, just as God is always with those who believe in Him.

March 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCorbett

Agree. Ending hurt an otherwise great movie. It broke the promise that had been implicit throughout

April 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Can anyone tell me or provide some example of the cultural significance of Life of Pi? I read and saw the movie, but I’m having a hard time figuring out the cultural significance of the novel or movie

April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLatin341

As much as I want to believe the tiger story, its not what happened.

How do I know this? the name of the Tiger. Richard Parker. A quick check will show you that The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838 written by Edgar Allen Poe has a Richard Parker as well. One involved with Shipwrecks and cannibalism. Further, the main character (not Richard Parker) owns a dog named "Tiger".

The mother stirred when Pi left the room. She visibily turns over. The mother released the animals.

Notice Pi hangs on he front of the boat until all the lifeforms are dead, showing he had checked out during that whole period. Only mom being attacked brought him onto the boat.

The tiger is non existent until the hyena (cook) attacks the organgutang (mom), in which he pounces and immediately kills the hyena.

The tiger is Pi, he trains himself begrudgingly to eat meat, hence the whole training scene.

the seaweed island might have been his way of dealing with the eating of human flesh. He puts the friendship bracelet on a root that looks alot like a human arm. Richard Parker is then munching away on animals, then Pi finds a human tooth after some unwrapping of a nugget leafy type thing and he sees the dead fish. When close to death, he finally ate some human meat he was somehow perserving which kept him alive. He turned it into a boney meatfilled island with acidic pools of liquid.

The pain on the boys face at the end as he "makes up" a story for the reporters is there for a reason.

Humans all want to believe in a mystical rosey outcome, but most likely, it wont be the case. In studying all religions and being shipwrecked with the worst circumstance, Pi got his answer about religion. He watched his mother be murdered and he ate her flesh to survive.

Pi believed in the beginning the tiger wouldnt take his arm if he fed it, but then he saw it would. As the tiger disappears into the jungle, so does Pi's last resolve that there is anything mystical about this world. There was no tiger on the boat, there was nothing to save him, there was only him, affixing a love bracelet to her arm, and then eating her.

April 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertruth bringer

All things written by the poster above i agree with. Except for the conclusion. The tiger hides from God in the thunder storm. Pi does not. Only through faith does he live. He accepts the truth about what happened but in order to live in the hard world he tells the animal story. The tiger leaves him and so does all guilt. God forgives and guides him. He lives a full life thanks to it. All who hears his story also forgives him chosing the animal story.

April 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfred

Life of Pi has an AMAZINGING ending telling you 2 ways of the story. one of which I belive to be the way pi wants people to see his story, kinda like find the beauty in even the most horrific things, which is one of the many things that makes it so touching that he can turn the all time worst thing that happened to him into something amazing, beautiful even. The other story is what I belive to be the truth. The story with the animals all repersents something true like when pi ask the monkey where her baby went she looks out to the sea, telling you that pis mother lost her son in the ocean. I also belive that the tiger in a way repersents a part of pi the angrey side, like how the tiger first came out when the monkey/pi's mother dies and leves when pi is found and is said to never be seen again and it is hiding some place never to be found.

May 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMovieSeeker

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