December 29, 2012

    My Analysis of the Ending

    A breathtaking film with stunning visual effects, Ang Lee brought the Man Booker Prize winning novel to life. It has one of those twist endings that will leave you wondering and debating… spoilers ahead if you haven’t read/seen it!

    In the end, Pi shares with us two versions of what happened out at sea.

    I find it interesting that it seems everyone assumes one story has to be real and one imagined.

    The question he asks is not which is true or false, it is “which do you prefer?”

    BOTH stories have truth.
    They are one and the same.

    As in many things in life, you can choose to understand with a rational mind, or you can understand from the heart, viewing with spiritual and emotional eyes.

    While logically speaking, it is likely that Pi was the one who killed the cook and saw the Japanese sailor and his mother cannibalized, it is also true that Richard Parker DID EXIST – within Pi. Richard Parker is an emotional aspect of Pi’s personality, the beast in him, the violent and animalistic side of human nature that we struggle with, and it has to be tamed. Richard Parker was very real to Pi in his 227 days out at sea. He was Pi’s companion and motivating force for survival. Just because Richard Parker was not present physically, does not negate his emotional truth.

    Remember, Pi was a profoundly spiritual person who took on three religions at the same time and reveled in God’s fiery thunderstorms. Needless to say, there is a spiritual depth and deep philosophical introspection to the way he interprets and gives meaning to events in his life.  By using allegories in his Richard Parker story, Pi could illustrate the complex ideas and symbolisms of things that happened, in an elegant (less horrific) story that people can pass on and relate to better – much akin to a parable.

    Like love (and arguably like God)… “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart” – Hellen Keller.

    Science is true, beyond a doubt. The purely rational will see science as just that – cold hard facts and proven theories about the world around us. Scientifically speaking, love is simply a heady concoction of chemical reactions in the brain. But if you view this fact with emotional/spiritual lens, you will understand love as a power far more magnificent than, well, mere brain juice. Yet, both are true are they not? Which version of love do you prefer?

    Likewise, when Pi remarks, “and so it goes with God”, I believe he is saying belief in a higher power that seems fantastical and impossible has to be intertwined with an embrace of faith in the spiritual and emotional side of life. Only then are we more likely to accept that science & God, like Richard Parker and Pi, are not really mutually exclusive. That perhaps science is also the creative language of a God we cannot fully comprehend. The name Pi itself- the famous irrational mathematical number 22/7 that never ends – makes him symbolic of the unfathomable, mysterious complexities of our human existence we will never fully grasp. 

    He isn’t insisting either story is right or wrong. Hey, if you prefer the story without the animals, it’s okay too. But it would be a pity because you’re missing out on something deeper, something more beautiful.

Comments (10)

  • Bravo! A well thought out and convincing article… I watched the movie, didn’t think this deep haha…

  • um actually, “and so it is with God” means that, like how Pi made up a story to cope with his emotional pain and the incredible events that happened, humans made up stories to cope and understand God.

    Only Pi experienced the horrific events of his mother dying, him killing the cook, and being stranded for such a long time. Who else could possibly understand what he felt? Therefore he needed to create a story both to cope with what had happened and to help other people understand a little of what he felt. This applies to Bible stories. We’ll never truly understand His power and glory, but the stories help us get a grasp of it.

    Lastly, Pi says “and so it is with God” after the guy listening to the story says he prefers the made up story over the real one. Humans, in general, like Bible stories. They prefer them over what may have really happened. The stories are similar but dont quite show the full glory of God. The phrase “and so it is with God” is saying that God is inexplicable and therefore we need stories to cope with the unexplainable-ness of it all. It’s quite philosophically religious.

  • Thumbs up, great analysis, finally (for me) find someone who share same thoughts. It is suppose to leave an open and debatable closing at the end. A good story/movie creates reflection. And one more great thing about Ang Lee’s magical hand is that he brought it to another whole new level of visual. And its ok for Suwarto to not think that deep, because the stunning visual had already take ones off.

    to lulubearcat: I prefer to understand it as both are truth story, one is his spiritual encounter, the other: cold facts. He didn’t made up any of it. It’s like saying if you tell about your dream, are you making it out? You really experience your dream and merely describing it. So, Richard Parker is not made up in that sense; Richard Parker doesn’t come out from emptiness, it had been encountered.

    In fact I would say that the ending is the author’s ideal take towards believing the god. Although it is open-ended, but the author hope that the world can come to believe god. Which is what we are lacking: people who choose Richard Parker.

  • @lulubearcat -  Sounds like you didn’t really understand what Dawn is talking about. Your own analysis is the most obvious one that the masses with average IQ and no deep thinking skills can only grasp. If I was a literature professor grading your paper, you would only get a C or B =)

  • lol! If I get a C or B or even fail, so be it. Like I say, the ending is open and reflective; allowing for different takes. I like Dawn’s analysis, and I didn’t disagree with yours, but I have my take. And this is what a good movie is about, making us to discuss and debate over it. :)

  • @TVboyZ -  I wasn’t talking to you. Did you see properly, I was replying “lulubearcat”.

  • In the actual human version of the story, Pi’s mum actually didn’t make it to the boat. The orangutan came only after the sea became calm the next morning–on some floating bananas!! And that’s exactly why the Japanese reporter pointed out that bananas don’t float. (Maybe they do, but definitely their floatation is not strong enough to hold an orangutan like a small raft.)

    This is the trickiest part – and truly the cleverest part by the director – of all the metaphoric mirroring of both the animal and human versions of the survival story. Gita, Pi’s mum, quite clearly died in the ship wreck; if you recall the scene while the lifeboat was being launched, there were only the cook, the sailor, and Pi right before the rope snapped off… and then the images switched to the animal version totally, first flashing in was the zebra leaping and falling into the lifeboat. So, the hyena is the cook; the zebra is the sailor; the tiger ‘Richard Parker’ is Pi’s own dark/wild instinct of himself; and the orangutan is Gita, Pi’s beloved mum who ‘floated’ back as a spiritual support for Pi when he was at his darkest and most lost moments of his life.

    Later, when the ship had sunk, Pi cried out his loss in despair. At that point, he clearly called out “Papa, mama, (brother’s name)…” This showed that Pi’s mum, Gita, could not have made it to the life boat in the real human survival story.

    The floating bananas – the way the orangutan appeared – also matches the Hindus’ belief (Gita’s belief became Pi’s first religious influence) where the believers launched lit flower floats at the river during their ceremony shown earlier on in the movie, signifying how they free souls of the deceased: as if the souls have turned into light and float away.

  • Namaste

  • “Which one do you prefer?” To that I say: if both stories are true, why is it assumed that we should prefer one over the other? This is my biggest issue with this film/book. Ideally there should be no competition. We should learn to accept multiple realities, not pit one against the other as if there should be a victor.

  • Hmm… here’s my take on a brilliant, deeply significant story… In real life, we soften reality with our own “preferred story” of reality.  Unfortunately reality does not go away because of that.  The tiger is Pi and Pi is God.  God looks after him at great personal sacrifice (he sits on the raft outside of Pi’s life boat because he would not alow him onto it) in spite of that – he remains deeply involved, taking care of him, training him to survive, when he left the safety of the boat God goes to rescue the tiger…. He did all he could to save him, and make him survive – because he was looking, asking searching for God.  Above all God tries to have relationship with Pi.  When the tiger is about to die, completely at the end of himself… only then does he allow God close enough to have a measure of relationship – allows him to put his head on his lap… a brief few moments of intimacy with God follows…. Then he was delivered to safety on land… the tiger prefers to choose the story he likes most… the story of I can now once again go and look after myself in the jungle – I no longer need God…  He does not even turn to say thank you.  What is God’s (Pi’s) reaction? Deeply sorrowful at the loss of relationship – after all He tried to do and be for Pi… God is rejected as someone that is only useful when the tiger needs him and is at the end of himself… It’s a very strong picture of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross… and an equally strong picture of how he respects our free will and choices – he respects our answer to the question “Which story do you prefer?” But He deeply mourns the tiger’s ingrattitute and the rejection of the relationship He so desires with us. 

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