‘Life of Pi’ (2012): Don’t lose your humanity – an essay by Phila Dyasi

This essay will explore and expand on the numerous foundations that creates Film Form’s four meanings in relation to Angela Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ (2012), a drama and action film centred around spirituality and the undying human spirit. These various elements suggest or say things in larger significant manners that filmmakers have conveyed in the ideas and opinions in the film, implicitly or explicitly. The filmmakers want the spectators to grasp these referential, explicit and implicit and meanings, and in some films, for the audience to create their own meanings.

The plot is termed the referential meaning. “It’s merely a synopsis that anyone else who watches the film will likely agree with. It is essentially describing the plot of the film, telling what happens, is the simplest way to best explain it to someone else” (Jacobs, C.P. 2017). The eleventh edition of Film Art further adds that “this is very concrete, close to a bare-bones plot summary” (Bordwell, Thompson & Smith 2017). “Here the meaning depends on the spectator’s ability to identify specific items” (Bordwell et al. 2017). The film references places or thing that already exist in the real world that have some significance. Thus, to some extent it requires the viewer to be acquainted with some meanings and settings cued by the movie. During the State of Emergency period in 1975 till early 1977 as declared by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in “Life of Pi, Piscine (Pi) Molitor Patel’s father, Santosh Patel, a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India, grows nervous about the current political situation that is characterised by suspended constitutional rights and restricted civil liberties” (Spark Notes 2017). He speculates that Gandhi might try to take over his zoo and faced with depressing economic conditions, Pi’s father decides he will sell off his zoo animals in North America upon arrival and move his family of four (himself, his younger son Pi, eldest son Ravi and wife Mrs Gita Patel) to Canada by means of a Japanese freighter.  The sink ships after a terrible storm and Pi is the only human survivor in one version of the story, and/or Pi and his mother, the cook and a Taiwanese sailor the survivors in the alternative version. However, Pi is not alone in the main version; a fearsome Bengal tiger is also aboard the lifeboat. As time passes in the 227 days long ordeal, Pi is forced to trust the tiger, an internal and external conflict with self. Understanding the turmoil in India at the time, one can see the justification to up and leave a country across seas to another continent entirely. It functions to illustrate the context of the Patel family in the new India. It is effective as it sets the narrative in a larger narrative already invested with significance in the real world – history.

The meaning that is seemingly being tried to be made, or got across, that is still considerably tangible in attribution to the film. An explicit meaning is the “moral of the story” or socio-political message that channelled through actions performed by actors and words spoken by characters in the movie under the instruction of the creator of the film(Bordwell et al. 2017). This meaning is also controlled by context, within the scope of the film form. The explicit meaning, the core message herein is that even in dire situations, in acts of survival, we as humans should never abandon our humanity – our compassionate and caring nature to resort to be inhuman(e). The survival of the soul is as important as survival of the physical. This is clearly illustrated in Pi’s interaction with the tiger. He could have killed Richard Parker with an axe, or simply left Richard Parker out of the boat to drown so that his own safety is guaranteed and not consistently threatened by the beast. This is because Pi is a person of faith and great hope. His utterance in the movie that animals have souls too, which is the reason he is a vegetarian, is why he feels the need to feed the tiger, give it water to sustain it and not leave it behind on that Island that turns acidic at night. The human spirit and being civilised has not left Pi, even when he is removed from civilisation/society. This is effectively done, and consistently reinforced in the film in how Pi speaks of the animals, giving them human quality, for example when he takes his girlfriend to the zoo to see the tiger and he says Richard Parker is showing off when he turns his head like a dancer. Even by the very act of continuing to call it Richard Parker and not ‘Thirsty’. The selfishness, primal and primitiveness, greedy and violence of the hyena represents such inhumanity, a personality trait that is in humans innately, more so evident in survival situations. The fear and desperation embodied by the tiger and how it uses aggression to compensate for these emotions is telling of an emotionally immature people that might be physically mature. Perhaps, this is the case of a naïve Pi who is forced into manhood prematurely. The injured Zebra that is finished off and used as bait is telling of a society that treat the ill, the other-abled, the poor, the old and other marginalised groups of people as second-class citizens and are objectified and only seen in ways to exploit them for personal gain and development. Indeed, it is still a case of ‘survival of the fittest, elimination of the weak’ in modern day society. Perhaps, the reason humans are represented as animals is a friendly reminder how animalistic human can be. How we are animals too. At a basic level, we are capable of far worse than the beasts we fear and cage.  The love and affection of the orangutan is as inherent in humans as is the evil nature of the tiger-esque, and it is up to the individual to choose which path to follow.  This is foreshadowed by Pi’s father when he says Pi must choose a path if he is to find his way on this journey called life. Although he was talking about Pi’s multi-religiousness, it holds true for most motifs.

The abstract meaning that is implicit meaning is another level of interpretation, slightly deeper than the less-intricate referential and explicit meanings (Bordwell et al. 2017). It is a “less obvious meaning but can still be inferred by seeing how the characters change, grow, and develop throughout the course of the film” (Jacobs, C.P. 2017). Issues and ideas dealing with general human relations are mostly implicitly made. This is a comment on a broader issue or issues in society. Although some of these subtexts are intended by filmmakers, most try to avoid them altogether. Implicit meanings deal with themes. The theme of belief versus atheism is a major theme throughout the movie. Fact versus fiction. Science versus religion. Pi is the grey area between the scientific-point-of-departure of his father, and the religious moral standpoint of his maternal side, he embodies that point that assumes both fields have their uses and can co-exist, and are necessarily mutually exclusive. And like his namesake, it is irrational to argue why one is superior to the other when Science answers how when Religion answers why. Both answers are needed by humans to fully understand the world and the role of human’s in the world and have wholesome humanity. Pi articulates faith as a house with many rooms, with doubt on each floor. Perhaps Science has a room too, as a zoologist by trade in his younger years. It is in fact religion that saves his humanity whilst at sea and science that saves his life, aquatic science of swimming, fishing and so forth.

Symptomatic meaning is an interpretation that looks at the whole film as a part of the wider scope of society, reflecting and illustrating themes prevalent in the culture, in the time and place it was made, and possibly in the creator’s personal life experience (Bordwell et al. 2017). This level of interpretation tries to recognize symbolic content, identifying characters and situations as metaphors for something else, or possibly seeing the entire story as an allegory about something else (Jacobs, C.P.  2017). Film Art furthermore adds that it reveals social ideologies and set values. “It situates the film in a current trend of thought that is assumed by [that particular] society” (Bordwell et al. 2017) during a set time. Pi believes in Hinduism, then finds Christianity and later Islam completes his holy Tricia. He does not see any contradiction here, contrary to what conventional and mainstream opinion is on the issue. Pi’s higher plane of thinking is on the basis that all three religious faiths have much more in common than they are different. All three believe in a higher power, or supreme being, or a creator, which also corresponds with his unofficial-official third system of belief- science, namely the Big Bang theory that theorises that from nothing came something. Which is essentially what a miracle is – a religious phenomenon. This is a direct assault on fundamentalism that is inherent in all religions, and the violent consequence thereof.  Also suggesting that Christianity, the moral code used to justify colonialism, slavery and crusades (‘holy wars’) has no moral superiority to accuse other religions of violence. It seeks to tell us that no religion promotes violence. It is up to the individual that practises it. A direct assault to racial profiling and such. Pi has renewed hope in humanity from his faiths. Not the places of worships: church, mosque, temple, science lab – no, none of that nor the scriptures, as we see his scientific instruction on how to survive is hurled away from him by the wind – a natural element that is in the power of the Creator. Pi begins to understand how insignificant he is, and by extension humans in the greater scheme of nature and that we are from nature, the soil, and to the soil we will return. This is what the algae island that turns carnivorous by night represents about nature’s power, it can give and take – we are its mercy. It is social commentary on how humans feel entitled to exploit everything in nature for our own end and use, from food, to shelter provided by natural resources to fossil fuels. The vegetarian boy Piscine Molitor Patel has given way to survivor-contestant Pi who feeds on flesh now, even human flesh to survive. The island’s fundamental need to survive, like humans, is satisfied temporarily and unendingly through the greedy consumption of other living things. Daytime has always been associated with good, ‘godly’ things whilst night-time’s dark has been with literal darkness, or evil which is what is typical of man too. The island represents what society uses religion for: as a sense of security that all things are safe and benign if one is religious, when that is not true as dreadful things will happen to a believer too. It is the joy of reaching a plateau for temporary rest and forgetting that the summit of the mountain has not been conquered, metaphorically speaking. Pi takes a leap of faith, to challenge the great unknown of the sea again in search of humanity than this island that cannot be determined of its origin, function or its purpose. On a balance of chance, the sea is lesser risk – a scientific conclusion to some parts from Pi the zoologist. Pi’s greatest triumph is maintaining his humanity, even in the act of survival.

-nublaccsoul [new-black-soul]

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bordwell, D., Thompson, K., & Smith, J. (2017) Film Art. 11th ed. New York, McGraw-Hill Education.

Jacobs, C.P., 2017. Film Theory and Approaches to Criticism, or, What did that movie mean? [Online]. Available from: http://www.und.edu/instruct/cjacobs/FilmTheory&Analysis.htm [Accessed 08th September 2017]

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‘Pursuit of Happyness’ by Azola Dayile | a review #InMyHumbleOpinion

Pursuit of Happyness
I have spent countless hours
At church,
Pubs
And strip clubs.
With pastors,
Prostitutes
And drunkards.
In pursuit of happynes,
The truth
And fleshy desires.
Sang happy songs with Hedonists
Travelled with Nomads,
Got high with Rastas
And broke bread with Pariahs.
Camped on bended knees around
hell-like fires
To listen attentively to grown men
liars.

Slaughtered sheep,
Goats
And cows
For this little bit of sanity
And crowded peace of mind,
But my hands are smeared with
blood
And the dark cloud still looms
closely behind
Where the hell is this love?
I only know hearts for pumping
blood.
Not as an asylum for
Said feeling you people cannot
even describe.

And do you remember
When god said “let there be light!”?
I was unfortunate
And cast out
To write this poem
With my tongue in this grim dark
I am convinced collecting empty
beer bottles
and picking bread crumbs is my
birth right.
I am still in hot pursuit
And the journey now leads me
To a mad house.

Review:

We journey with the speaker through multiple contexts, tracing for a seemingly fleeting and insatiable feeling of contentment through discovery, trial-and-error and experimentation. In the many cultural and social spaces, we are introduced to: “Church / Pubs/…strip clubs” for which are institutions to cater to human needs in varying ways. A sense of seeking a ‘home’, the longing of a person wanting to belong in a set society could be interpreted as the message of this poem. A place of refuge, whether physical or otherwise, is sought and is never found. The unattainable asylum has been searched for within the confines of organized religion and in areas of ‘profanity’, and neither house the happiness the speaker wants. It appears that the search is for inner peace is pursued outwardly, and it is because of this that it is never attained. Furthermore, want can understand the subject not to be an individual but the personification of a place, that is ‘home’ to churches, pubs and strip clubs, but still has citizens who are not happy, a place where poverty exists even in the presence of church, pubs and strip clubs, institutions were money is found in abundance.
In wanting to make sense of the world, find comfort, balance and peace, and meeting the demands of life, all the while having faith and hope that a connection to the world will be made somehow. Church offers to fill the spiritual void of humans, pubs hope to pump gallons of socialisation down the throats of its regulars, a ‘holed-liver’ of fun, while strip clubs seek to fulfil the “fleshly desires” of our Hedonist core as humans, all contributing to the wholesome human experience. With pubs being a platform for the social activity of drinking alcohol, we see this as an escape from the negative feelings, the chemical-imbalance causing beverage tends to remove the anxiety and stress. Also, in South Africa, drinking is a social norm, if fact one of the leading nations in consuming alcohol, furthermore if we examine the black community, particularly, this is customary. It is a behavioural expectation to as the speaker attempts to be one ‘fit in’ with his contemporaries, and not be relegated to the margins as nomads are, as gypsies are, as Rastafarians are, all minorities made ‘pariahs’ of society.
We get an idea that the state of mind of the speaker is deeply troubled and unsettled, perpetually anxious and stressed from his unending quest for ‘the truth’, that alludes him, and he cannot even receive it from the elders as they are deceptive – “grown men liars” in the first stanza. “For this little bit of sanity /And crowded peace of mind” of stanza 2 continues this image of mental instability. An “asylum” is mentioned in this stanza as well, an institution that provides care and protection to needy individuals, such as the infirm and destitute. It is a sanctuary, away from profanation and violation. Both physically and psychologically. It is a homely setting. Here one enjoys liberty from what is required by society and law for and from most people. It would appear that not even the feeling of love, “what the hell is this love”, can save the speaker from feeling like an outsider. He dismisses ‘love’ as “said feelings people cannot even describe”, an abstract concept that people do not comprehend therefore cannot practise. Stanza 3 sees the speaker reaching his destination, “And the journey now leads me/ To a mad house”. He has resigned his fate to insanity. Here he can find serenity. Ironically, he can feel a sense of connection to the world once removed from it. His spiritual transcendence, like prayer or meditation is his soloism. Isolation from the madness of life, and its many demands.
The intertextuality is rife herein, borrowing a number of images from the ‘Holy Bible’ to fit his spiritually rich poem and references. The first stanza’s chaos and the sliding scale from extreme holiness to extreme profanity, the polar opposites that are presented in closeness show how samey we are in our differences. We are united in our separateness. “Let there be light” from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 3, represents the void, the darkness ceasing, the birth of something from nothing. The light here is not literal. The light of the world is man, as in ‘human being’. Human being who has dominion on all that happens on earth. The abject poverty presented in “picking up bread crumbs”, is a human construct, the great ill of neo-liberal capitalism, a zero-sum game that sees individuals with billions while some go without bread each day. As some would collect “empty beer bottles” to sell as to make money, to buy basics like bread, for example. This could also be a critique of the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, the title of this poem, where the protagonist seeks for fulfilment in the material world. We can deduce that the speaker establishes his pursuit of happiness in the world outside of worldly things is of higher moral ground, or, that the for any community, more than money, we need to find spiritual fulfilment, or risk something of the most high value, our peace of mind – sanity.

– nublaccsoul #InMyHumbleOpinion

NU

‘Social Commentary’ the single off the forthcoming mixtape of the same name, download link:
http://audioinbox.com/s/0Rlgxa

image
'Social Commentary' artwork by NOZIPHO SINEGUGU GUMEDE for thINK-media

Lyrics:
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/1682172/social-commentary/

ALSO…
‘Then & Now’ download:
http://audioinbox.com/s/OBco0j

image
'Then & Now' artwork created by NuBlaccSoUl #NBS for thINK-media

‘Then & Now’ Lyrics:
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/1682147/then-now/

Credits: Both songs written and arranged by NuBlaccSoUl.
Songs recorded, mixed and mastered by L.B.Nefilibata at B.G. Records Studios.
‘Social Commentary’ produced by MXBeatsGlobal and ‘Then & Now’ produced by IWishIKnewWho.

Her Hands

UKhulu, My beloved grandma, still she works.

She rises with the sun, to clean our home; sweep the yard; make heaps from the grass cuts and pile up trimmings from the windbreaker tree.
The wobbly wheelbarrow, from years of slaving, is filled to the top.
And off to the pit-hole I will push, to the fire-spitting-flames that she has already tendered to.

Tirelessly she labours, with not a bit spared to a break,
Her backbone bent and straightened every semi-second,
For as long as I’ve lived and much longer before.

Midday struck with its ultra-solar
But her sunlit face always to the ground never showing strain or beat.
We escape the scorching elements and seek shade in the veranda.

Well I do. Her hands hands-on, curtains off the wall.
No time spent sitting around.
Sheets to be ironed,
Garden to be done,
Toilet to be cleaned,
And outside windows to be mirror screens.
The spirit of a slave. The soul of a light in a cave. The grand grandma.

Those early hours, barely slept, to heat the waters as warm as your love.
Breakfast by the bed-side,
A sprinkle of care & kindness in every bowl I tasted with my being.

My Childhood Home  was
and remains you. 
The source of strength.
I thank you for my life. 
I thank the Lord for yours. 
May you live forever!

There is always something someone must do, 
and the work is never done…

(C) 2016. Phila Dyasi. All rights reserved. Intellectual and ARTistic property of author. Don’t bite! | Writings and the other things…mostly experimental writing. UMamBhele madoda. Intombi yokugqibela ka MaMasango, uMaSobuwa ongasekoyo emhlabeni.

#love   #work   #temple   #grandmother  #nublaccsoul   #socialcommentary  #gaaahdbody   #umndeni   #izandla  #usapho  

before i met You

before i met You,
i was happy, content and whole.
that very day i was on my way,
to the launch of the anthology with three of my poems in it. 
and your sister’s works too. 
now i got three books worth 
of poetry about You Flower Child.

before i met You,
my life was pre-determined, 
on an everlasting date 
with my destiny. 
the stars were aligned, 
my moon and sun shared 
the same vault, 
the sky at the very same time. fate formed, finally confirmed what my faith had long since envisioned. 

before i met You, 
sleep was not a mere rumour. 
a tall story, thirty stories up 
hanging in the air like castles 
in children’s fantasies, fables.
peace was still sole my soul.
nowadays, restlessness wrestles 
with my slumber every damn night.
Rumble in the single-sized-bed jungle. 
No, no snuggle.
Not one for the solo cuddle.

before i met You,
the girl i was with seemed like the ‘one’. 
a soulmate and marriage worthy. her imperfections sealed with 
a flawless kiss into acceptance.

before i met You,
i had never felt this feeling of having found a familiar form 
in a strange, yet inviting face.
always one for reciprocated love, never give when i don’t get
but(t) your ass got me trippin’ anyway. i want You. all of You.

before i met You, 
forget that nostalgia.
we are in the here and now.

when i met You,
I should have asked for a dance, 
if not that then for a picture
at the very cowardly least 
— to make the evening
last a day longer 
than midnight’s dream-ending, cinderella-fairygodmother-drama.

-i hope he treats You good. ||

(C) 2016. Phila Dyasi. All rights reserved. Intellectual and ARTistic property of author. NuBlaccSoUl – trademark. Don’t bite jou gat! | Writings and the other things…still with the experimental.

Mr Misappropriation of Trust

Sounds of honesty, unsung by the flute.
I cannot break the spotless window
that people choose to see me through.
Unspoken truths, trapped in the tongues of the mute. 

I am a liar, a ufckboy, morals-deficient, and a dirty cheat.
My lady does not deserve any of this.
For our love and beautiful things, I ought to gift my one with bliss.
Instead, I am my Father’s son, uncommitted, a damn deadbeat.

We not all religious; but we are a people that is spiritual.
Our beliefs have us performing borrowed rituals.
I gave my soul to the Higher self, the Lord, God, who I am He.
It was a once-off deal like a residual, but with renewals.

When the only real solution
Is the inevitable dissolution
Never one to be under an illusion
I see the faux & forced inclusion.

Trying to align these intentions with the contradicting actions
LOVE You today & forever
Let’s share our eternity together.

It all begins as,
a celebration of love.
a great portion of life.
a potential partner you like.

(C) 2016. Phila Dyasi. All rights reserved. Intellectual and ARTistic property of author.