Loneliness and Life of Pi

It's no joke that my favorite pastime is movie watching. It's my go-to for any stretch of free time, and on weekend mornings you can often find me relaxed (or slumped) in front of the screen.

Movies are my adventures. I connect with fictional strangers every day, engulfed in their stories which are so vivid to me that characters feel almost like friends in my heart. Through films I adventure to the tips of the world, where my senses and feelings are heightened.

I am somewhat of an adventurer myself. I live in Denmark, where I am a foreigner. Being a foreigner means living outside of your comfort zone. And while it's usually fantastic and exciting, sometimes it gets lonely. So movies are also what I turn to when I'm feeling alone, because they are an escape from feeling lonesome.  It's rare that in a bout of melancholy I'll choose to take a walk in Fælledparken, despite my mom's well-guided suggestions. Instead of seeking comfort in nature or the city of Copenhagen, in these instances I tend to reach into another, filmic, world. It seems easier to displace my emotions onto a story than to tackle them head on during a walk where my own thoughts, not a character's, are front and center.

But today was different, because the filmic world became my own. My grumbling stomach pulled me into the kitchen of the kollegium where I live. I thought, I'll just make some quick lunch and then, I will work on my thesis. I had already watched part of a tennis match and Blå Mænd instead of working (being a film student makes you feel like any film you watch is justified as part of your "studies," even when it's a goofy Danish comedy about a recycling plant starring my Danish crush Thure Lindhardt). But my hallmates were starting Ang Lee's Life of Pi on the projector, and ooouuff I really wanted to see it. Plus, it was one of those listless snowy Sundays where a dour mood was winning against productivity. So I watched the whole thing, and it is dazzling. I don't need to tell you that much about this story of survival, beauty, and God; just see it.

I had a different reaction than most will have to this story. I think many will walk away from the film both struck by the gorgeous CGI, and thinking about religion, fragility of life, and whether or not the whole thing is an allegory. For me, however, it was Pi's loneliness that collided with my own. His need to survive after a shipwreck is of course something my comfortable life has never had (nor do I wish it!), but in some ways I felt his lifeboat was my own.

I think we all drift, alone, in our lives at some points--feeling isolated, warding off danger, and searching for companionship in our surroundings. Allegory aside, Pi had to tame and befriend a tiger to keep him sane and alive; perhaps in moments of deep loneliness we too feel fragilely human, and that the people who surround us are another species who do not understand us.

This is sometimes how I feel in Denmark when loneliness hits (thankfully it's not often). With my family far away, I think about the life I have here and wonder if choosing to live in a foreign country was in fact an act of isolation. My goals here--to learn the language, to make earnest friendships, to have new experiences, to create and sustain a life worth living--sometimes get lost in the loneliness of having to exist forever in translation. Because it's hard to connect, really connect, with another human being (or tiger), in a foreign language and culture.  But this is not just the case for ex-pats like me in the midst of mid-twenties self-investigation who have chosen to investigate far from home. I think it's true for everyone--beyond survival, we want to be understood.

LOTR and Torben Grodal

Whoa David Bordwell