It’s February of 2013 when “Life of Pi”, a film directed by Ang Lee, won four deserved awards at the Oscar for directing, photography, special effects and soundtrack.
The relationship between Pi (whose real name is Piscine Molitor Patel) and Richard Parker (a Bengal tiger) was born thanks to chance, or we should say thanks to bad luck: the Japanese merchant ship on which they were traveling to reach Canada is shipwrecked.
The two main characters, left alone on the boat after the death of the other three survivors – a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena – are obliged to live in the few meters available, and slowly get to know, to understand and to accept each other. So, day after day, the brave Pi can’t help but put aside the fear that he feels against his fierce roommate and try to take confidence. He tries to do it with a stick and with a whistle, until he is able to train him.
And then I think back to the scene described in the book “The Little Prince” where the fox explains to the child what “to domesticate” means.
“I’m looking for friends. What does that mean ‘to domesticate’? “, said the little prince.
“It is a long forgotten thing. It means ‘to create bonds’… “
“To create bonds?”
“Sure,” said the fox. “You, until now, for me, are just a boy like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I don’t need you. And you have no need of me. For you I’m just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you domesticate me, then we shall need each other. You will be unique in the world for me, and I shall be unique in the world for you. “
The fox, therefore, wants to be domesticated by the curious baby, want to create a bond with him. And so the little prince agrees, till understanding the meaning of the term “tame”. He, in fact, is able to assimilate that are the time and the force you use to know the other one which make it so special. To domesticate means creating a two-way, unique, sometimes indissoluble bond that fights against time and space. It involves the patient construction of everyday life, of habits shared by those who are getting to know each other little by little. It corresponds to change, to perceive and appreciate the singularity and the uniqueness of the other.
But everything doesn’t go as you would like: sometimes, after being domesticated, you have to go away and, in most occasions, the circumstances decide for us, just like what happens to the protagonist of “The Little Prince” and his new friend fox, that once was wild. They are forced to depart because he must continue his journey grudgingly, and it will observe the cornfields of whom love the color because they will remind the hair of the one that made it feels unique in the world. Abandonment is sad for both because they domesticated each other, they have come closer together and have started to become part of each other.
And the same happens in the film – based on the novel by Yann Martel – when, after 227 days of navigation, Pi and Richard Parker land on the coast of Mexico and their paths, which were intertwined creating an emotional connection, have to be separated: the tiger gets out of the boat, and immediately goes towards the forest that appears in front, it stops, shakes off the misfortunes that have happened to it and it immerses among the trees. Meanwhile, the boy is rescued by some local fishermen, but bursts into a touching lament that it is certainly not for the happiness of surviving. He suffers because what he believed was his friend has abandoned without saying goodbye, without looking at him with last farewell glance. “I think that life is nothing but an act of letting go, but the thing that hurts the most is not taking even a moment to say a proper goodbye.”.
Actually this is exactly what is needed when you realize that the time of separation has arrived: a moment to relive the story with the one who has created a deep emotional bond. There must be a moment in which you elaborate the end of a relationship (of any kind it is) because the time of acceptance is complicated, abrupt and painful, but necessary.
Richard Parker wasn’t only a hungry and dangerous tiger, but also and above all a companion, a friend that Pi has learned to know wave after wave, adventure after adventure. In the eyes of the feline he recognized sincere feelings, and not only the mirror of his emotions. He saw them, caressed them with his tired eyes but grateful for the opportunity to overcome the sufferings with a fighter like this animal.
The two respect each other, perhaps because they saved each other or perhaps because – just like in “The Little Prince” – they are domesticated at one another, they have changed, and if this understanding between them wasn’t born they would let themselves go to the darker sides of their being. Once on land, the tiger could eat or injure Pi, but it doesn’t do that: it surpasses him without turning around, eager to return to his natural habitat and start a new life. But the sixteen-year-old is afflicted and cries, then you can see that the tiger was able to change him: their relationship – of love and hate, of distance and fear and then of contact and closeness (so much that in one scene the boy fondles Richard Parker which is exhausted by hunger and thirst) – has allowed some sides of the character of Pi to emerge and to make him stronger and to give him a little more of hope.
I’m pretty sure that everyone has tried to identify with the boy when he has to let go of his ferocious friend: it has a bitter taste and scares, but many times the separation can make us discover some aspects of our character that we didn’t know to possess; sometimes it also manages to open our eyes to the reality of things, which otherwise we would have seen differently.
And, why not?, even about us, about what we were and what we are now.
“I couldn’t thank my father for all the things I’ve learned, nor tell him that without his lessons I would have never survived.
Yes, Richard Parker is a tiger, but I really wanted to tell him:
‘It’s over, we survived, thanks for saving my life. I love you Richard Parker, you will always be in my heart’. “