(December 2012) A Belated Review of the Theatrical Version of Life of Pi, Composed in the Form of a Letter to Someone I Will Probably Never Speak to Again

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“Letters were not foreign to me as a boy. I have no difficulty writing letters. The writing of letters is the thing I believe I do best.” —Sheila Heti, Ticknor

Last night I watched Life of Pi in theatres. Several times I almost walked out, not because of the movie, although in a lot of ways it deserved the only two-and-half-stars (out of four) given it by the Globe, but, I think, because I couldn’t stand the effect that sitting in the dark amphitheatre was having on me.

I wanted to go back to the apartment and work on an application essay, but I’ve found that difficult lately because I can’t seem to concentrate on the book I’m writing on (I’m not sure I can even hold it in my mind). I’m worried that anything I write will be forced, false, disgusting.

In the back of my mind I kept thinking about my phone, wondering if you’d try and contact me. I’d left my phone in the apartment, mainly so I wouldn’t have to worry about your texts or phone calls. I was also composing parts of this letter in my head. And realising that maybe my thinking of writing something to you is wrong, a misdirection of myself, or a diffusion. I miss you. But I’m suspicious of that, I guess, because it feels like missing you is hurting myself.

Because I should be paying attention to how I feel, not whether I miss you, and because you hurt me.

Something that bothered me about the movie is that it didn’t do a good job capturing the loneliness and emptiness of Pi’s days. The CGI ocean was too alive, too vibrant. Too many things were happening, too quickly. There are moments of colour in the book, but the struggle is really about dealing with the dread of being alone. I knew that the movie wasn’t going to be like that going in, of course, and I was reluctant to see it for that reason. (I wanted to walk out after the previews, again during the opening credits, and even before they first turned the projector on.) I don’t know why I stayed, exactly. Probably it was my twelve dollars.

The tiger was definitely impressive, as were the opening credits (mostly just colourful animals captured with “3D” cameras). Though I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help but think that ——— reccomended the movie to you, and I thought he must have liked it because it’s about one person suffering, that an entire theatre of people have to watch one person suffering. That’s fucked. There’s no reason I should think about ———, ever. I hope I forget his name.

Life of Pi was an important book to me when I was younger, so much so that I read it twice. There are two stories in the book, if you remember (you said you read it?). Most of my classmates (this was in high school, it was the book everyone read) were disappointed by the second story. The second story is more “rational” and is about cannibalization and murder rather than survival. Maybe I’ve told you this before. The first time I read the book I didn’t understand why it disappointed people, but I couldn’t fully articulate why. The first story is more powerful and the existence of the second story doesn’t mean that the first story isn’t real.

The second time I read the book I realized that Life of Pi was basically asking you to choose, that neither story could be proven or disproven. I did think that was a powerful argument for religion, though maybe that’s about as religious a thought as I’ve ever had. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this now. Maybe there are two stories to every relationship: not the two stories of each participant but two stories to each person.

Anyway. Those were my thoughts on the movie. I hope this letter finds you well.

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