Dr Tao Kwok-cheung, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Dr Mary Wong, Acting Director of Lingnan’s Centre for Humanities Research, discussed at a public seminar the metaphors of life as shown in the blockbuster Life of Pi from a philosophical perspective. Topics included the weaknesses of humanity, hopelessness and imagination, self-mediation and reflections on religion. The seminar was organised by Joint Publishing (Hong Kong) Limited.
Oscar-winning director Ang Lee presented on the silver-screen Yann Martel’s well-acclaimed novel, an adventure story of the protagonist Pi and a Bengal tiger Richard Parker, who survive 227 days after a shipwreck. Richard Parker is more than a visual projection of Pi’s internal conflicts following the devastating accident. Pi’s change from finding it unacceptable to live with the tiger to taming it denotes the struggle and compromise between humanity and brutality. It is also seen as an interpretation of Chinese philosopher Tang Junyi’s lecture on the difference between humans and animals in his On Chinese Culture for the Young.
Dr Tao believes that Director Lee’s film inspires the audience to rethink the inextricable relationship between man, god and nature. His presentation was similar to that of Wong Kar-wai when the latter presented the final of three stages of practising martial arts – think of oneself, of the world and of all the living – in The Grandmasters. After going through different stages of life and accumulating various experiences, martial arts practitioners will return to the living world and develop care and concern for nature and all the living.
Dr Wong pointed out that Director Lee’s film is more sentimental than the original novel. With the harsh truth presented by pleasing means, the film was a fantasy disguised as a fairy tale. Little was told about the harsh truth at the end of the story. All these point to Ang Lee’s belief that life is full of hope and men are born good rather than evil.