The Story of Pi and Skyfall


Odysseus (aka Ulysses)


In a bid to take a break from grading student papers and final exams, my wife and I attended two movies today that I had wanted to see but had previously been too busy for.


First, we saw Life of Pi.  I had been told that it’s a film about religion.  And it is, in a way.  But not directly, and not really as much as I had expected.  Somebody else commented to me that, in his view, it’s an anti-religious movie, and I confess that I’m somewhat inclined to view it that way myself.  It seems, to me, to imply that religion is a story that we tell ourselves in order to help ourselves cope with the pain and ugliness of the real world.  The film also appears to suggest that the evidence is insufficient to prove either the “realistic” story or the theistic story true, so that being religious or not is a relatively uncoerced choice.  But I’m not sure that the suggestion is sincere, or, anyway, that it can be sustained within the film’s plot:  After all — and I’m offering a spoiler alert here, so don’t read on if you don’t want to have at least a small portion of the movie’s conclusion revealed to you — the release of a hungry Bengal tiger into a Mexican coastal forest near a town would soon have unmistakable results.  And, if those results didn’t appear, it would be entirely reasonable to conclude that no hungry Bengal tiger was actually living in that Mexican jungle.


We saw Life of Pi with one of our sons and his wife.  Then, after an early dinner, they went home.  But my wife and I decided to go to a showing the James Bond film Skyfall, as well, which they had already seen.  It got off to a great start with a chase through familiar streets and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul — and then with combat atop a train that got Bond and his opponent out into forested mountains in an impossibly short time from the city.  I really like Daniel Craig as Bond.  His films have seemed grown-up in a way that the franchise had long since ceased to be (if it ever actually was).  This one is exciting, as Bond films typically have been.  But there was a lot of melancholy reflection on the passage of time, and on aging and decline and loss (and on the fact that youth and technology can’t substitute for human strengths and virtues), that really suits the mood I’ve been in for most of the year.  In that regard, M’s quotation of the last six lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses” set much of the theme for the film:


Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Posted from Orlando, Florida.



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  • John Ziebarth

    You really appreciate “Ulysses” after you reach a certain ‘er, mature , ripe age.