Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life of Pi

This takes a while to get political, but stay with me.

First of all, SPOILER ALERT.  Do not read any further if you don't want to 'spoil' the movie Life of Pi.

The Life of Pi is a wonderful imaginative story in part about a boy surviving on a lifeboat with a tiger..  But most importantly at the end it is implied that the entire story is a fiction used to cover up a darker story by the teller of the tale

The teller briefly describes a darker, more violent story involving murder and cannibalism and when asked by a novelist which is true, he replies "Which story do you prefer?"

All characters in the film (and the writer and the director) clearly support the preference for the lighter, more fictional tale of the tiger.    The movie doesn't show the murder/cannibalism story, it just has Pi speak it, after spending hours lovingly portraying the fantasy in brilliant color with expensive CGI detail.

But I prefer the darker story, not the  fantasy version.

It is more honest, more extreme, and in many ways more remarkable.   The tiger tale is full of stupidity, blind luck and a dash of miracles.  All based on rather silly decisions that no sane man would do (such as helping the tiger get back on the boat).  It's sole real value is the beauty by which it is portrayed.

The darker story however is a true tale of right vs might.   A young man makes the right decisions and lives as a direct result of it.  Yes, the losses in it are worse.  That is part of life.   The dark parts make the bright parts worth it.  Without uglyness there is no beauty.

Now, I am an aspiring fantasy writer. (96,000 word novel submitted to DAW publishing).  I have nothing against fantasy, I love it.  But there is a reason why they told the 'dark' story in the book and movie, as opposed to cutting it.  Without the dark story, the 'fantasy' version is crap.  It's simply not that good a fantasy story.

It lacks the things that make a good story.  Things that are present in the dark tale.  Right vs. Wrong make for better tales than Survival vs Death.  In addition, reality is far more complicated.  There are shades of gray.   Cannibalism is wrong - but what about when you are out of food and other people died natural deaths?

The thing is too many people prefer the light fantasy to the dark reality.

This happens in politics in particular.   Politicians make up beautiful, tiger filled fantasies and try to win using them.  They portray their enemies as pure evil, and their allies as pure good.   They ignore the problems and weaknesses in their own plans and refuse to admit their opponent has any point at all.

Reality is darker and more complex   There are people on both sides that are good and people on both sides that are evil.  

We need to learn to not only accept the darker truths, but to prefer them.

Only then can we solve the real issues.

Compromise means both sides will have to sacrifice - but that can only be done if both sides will admit the other is not the big bad evil monster.

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