Challenging subtext makes ‘Life of Pi’ unique and unconventional

Suraj Sharma in ‘Life of Pi.’ Rated PG, 127 min. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2012.

The visually stunning “Life of Pi” is a thrilling adventure to experience, but what some may see as a spiritual awakening, others may view as a long and ponderous journey to nowhere.

Adapted from a popular novel, this is the movie equivalent of literature: even though there is extensive character development, much of the story’s greater meaning is left unsaid through subtext or symbolism. It needs to be considered philosophically, and each viewer may find a unique appeal or connection.

Relocating to Canada from India along with his family and their zoo animals, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) is a young man who survives a ship wreck only to be stranded in a life raft with a fierce (sometimes computer-generated) tiger. Pi’s older self (Irrfan Khan) narrates, so his fate is never in question, but his story of survival still unfolds with suspense and wonder. Prayers, dreams and lies all factor in.

The film is rated PG, but that does not mean it is easily enjoyed by young children. Some scenes and images – such as the ship wreck and many animal attacks – are quite disturbing, and the length and heavy religious subject matter may be challenging. This is one of the most beautiful films of the year, but also one of the most divisive.

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