Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Tell a Story: Add a Tiger

I attempted to see Lincoln on Friday, but it was sold out, so I chose to see Life of Pi instead. Okay, I had to be talked into it by my other two friends, but once I had popcorn in my lap and a soda at my elbow, I was quite content with the movie choice. Besides the director was the guy who did Sense & Sensibility. It would be gorgeous no matter what.

It totally was.

But it was the story that moved me. The story was about how a boy found God out in the Pacific Ocean while he was shipwrecked and fighting for his life. Oh, and how he did this while taking care of a Bengal tiger who was sharing the boat with him.

Originally on the boat there had  been a zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan, but through a series of events, only the tiger remained; and it is the boy and the tiger who finally make it to land in the end. You know this because well, the adult version of the boy is the one telling this story to a writer who is in need of a story, and a friend hooked him up with this shipwreck survivor for a chance to tell this story.

Watching the tiger and the boy come to a "truce" of sorts is engaging--great dramatic action in the middle of an ocean where there is nothing that goes on for days and days. You wonder how the boy manages to survive as long as he does, but he confesses it is the tiger who keeps him going. If he didn't have the tiger to look after, he would have lost the will to survive.

When he finally washes up on a shore with actual people on it and is rescued, the tiger disappears and the boy mourns. As he is healing, some men who belong with the company who had the ship that sank (that's how he got stranded out in the middle of the ocean--a sinking ship) and asked him what happened. So he told the story about the zebra, hyena, orangutan, and tiger--about the story we all experienced with him and what we believed. The men look at each other and ask, "What really happened?"

After a bit, the boy tells another story, something completely different, something darker and grisly, a tale of survival. Your heart breaks as you realize this is probably what really happened, but he had created this other tale for his sanity, of sorts. The men leave. The writer who listens to this new story pieces together where the "real" story and the "made up" story overlap. Finally the boy-adult asks the writer, "Which story do you prefer?" "The one with the tiger," the writer confesses. "And so it is with God," the boy-adult says.

It is a treatise I think on telling your story BIGGER. If you want thematic meaning and magic, you'll have to tell the Whopper instead of what "really" happened. The story of how the boy really survived was also an interesting story--and just as sad, if not sadder, but without the tiger, it is just a grim story of survival and not a triumphant story of survival and the human spirit.

I'm not really sure how to do this of course. I think we're all adding tigers in our own way, what with love that conquers all and true love lasts forever. The reality tends to be a bit grimmer without the magic, but we are still looking for the shine. I like the idea of being given permission to tell your story as you wish to create the truth you know. That sticking with the "facts" isn't always the best way to tell a story and that in doing so you may be missing some of the magic.

Any movies you have seen lately? Have you read the book Life of Pi? Truth or embroidered fiction?

35 comments:

TerriOsburn said...

This is what has me stuck in the current WIP. Feels like nothing is happening. I need to add a tiger.

Haven't read the book and wasn't interested in seeing the movie until now. I like the twist on choosing which story is more interesting. And the trailer does look gorgeous.

I'm slowly introducing kiddo to the Brat Pack movies. She loves Breakfast Club and we watched St. Elmo's Fire this weekend. It's so cheesy 80s but the story still holds up.

MsHellion said...

I think that's what I liked most about the movie--the idea you got to pick your "truth".

It WAS a lot of time spent on the ocean though. There was a period of "When the hell are they going to make it to land already?" But again, it was all beautifully done.

Being I didn't get to start watching movies until basically AFTER the Brat Pack came out, I was never a Brat Pack fan. Deerhunter is. I think he was rhapsodizing about The Breakfast Club last week when I mocked him for his chick flick choices. (Such a nurturing caring girlfriend I am.) He said it was one of the movies where Molly Ringwald actually looked good.

TerriOsburn said...

Are you telling me you've NEVER seen The Breakfast Club??? That movie is so up your alley. And it's in no way a chick flick. You must rectify this situation immediately. And I grew up with the Brat Pack, though I know they weren't fond of that moniker. Who would be?

MsHellion said...

I think I've seen parts of it. Aren't they in detention or something? *shrugs* I don't know. There are several 80s movies I just didn't get. I preferred the "weird ones" like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. Edward Scissorhands makes me cry actually; I feel so awful for him.

TerriOsburn said...

Never watched all of that one. Too weird. ;)

MsHellion said...

Yeah, I figured. *LOL* I think I own that one, if I'm not mistaken. Wasn't a fan of Earth Girls Are Easy or anything, but I've almost always been a big fan of Tim Burton. He's weird, but he's a neat sort of weird. It's nice to see a brain more warped than mine out there, being successful.

Sadly I could relate more to Edward Scissorhands than I ever could to Breakfast Club--and I'm sure it was the reverse with you. That high school experience was probably close to yours...mine was more like the sandworms from Beetlejuice. *LOL*

Marnee Bailey said...

I love the Brat Pack and I love Beetlejuice. I don't think I've seen Edward Scissorhands, though....

I want to see this moving. I have the book but I've never gotten into it. Pretty much if there's no relationship/love story and implied HEA, I'm out. I can't read heavy stuff. I've got enough craziness in my life right now. I need to know things are going to work out in my literature.

But this movie sounds great. I want to see Les Miserables too. I saw it on Broadway years ago and it was FABULOUS.

TerriOsburn said...

I can't wait for Les Mis! I saw it on stage when I was 18 but was literally in the last row of the theater. The trailers all look amazing.

And I really want to see Silver Linings Playbook. Might have to make time next weekend for that one.

Am I the only one not all that interested in The Hobbit?

Marnee Bailey said...

OH!! I want to see both those movies too!! The Hobbit!! *sigh* I loved all the LOTR movies. I really think it's going to be great.

P. Kirby said...

Heh. The Hobbit is the only movie we'll bother to go to the theater to see this year. (Along with Batman Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, earlier this year.) But I'm all about fantasy and science fiction.

I picked Life of Pi up at the local library's booksale, recently. I've gotten about 20-pages in, and honestly, not feeling the love so far. Keep wandering off to read other stuff. Too exposition-y, with meandering stuff about his childhood, how he got the name Pi, endless ruminations on the nature of zoos, wild animals, etc. ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anyway, my work in progress is sort of stuck, probably because of profound absence of tigers. Needs more tiger. :)

Janga said...

I've read The Life of Pi. It has some lovely, lyrical passages, but it's not really my kind of book on either the narrative or philosophical levels. If I see the movie, it will probably be after it's released as a DVD. I just don't see movies in the theater often.

But I ordered my ticket for The Hobbit the first day they were available. If I hadn't had a conflict, I would have been there on opening day, but I have to wait until the 17th.

I do like the tiger as a story metaphor, Hellie. I think I need to plan a tiger hunt.

Haleigh said...

So every time a commercial for Life of Pi comes on, both me and the hubs start bitching about how implausible it is that a tiger is in a boat and friends with a boy. I had no interest in watching it -- until now. NOW it sounds absolutely amazing.

There's one coming out I'm excited about - Silver Lining's Playbook or something. It looks like a fairly standard rom-com, but apparently the hero is just out of a mental institution, and bat-shit crazy, which again, suddenly makes it WAY more interesting.

And Les Mis . . . ahhh, that's just going to be awesome all around.

MsHellion said...

Marn, I'm cracking up that you only want a love story and HEA, but Les Mis is one of your faves. *LOL* Okay, it IS still a love story, even if it doesn't all work out for everyone, right?

I'm jonesing for that movie too, by the way. AND the Hobbit. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Terri, The Hobbit has RICHARD ARMITAGE! How can you not be interested? *LOL*

Marnee Bailey said...

I need HEAs in my reading. That's a lot of time to invest if it ends badly. But I can sit through a movie. With movies, it's about visual execution and artistry too. I can tolerate depressive material visually, I guess. lol!

MsHellion said...

P. Kirby, I was afraid of that. I'll check it out from the library, but this might be like Twilight 4--where the movie is better than the book. (Though I'm sure the writer of Life of Pi is gnashing his teeth I put him in a similar category with Stephanie Meyer!) Maybe this should be a discussion of "Have you actually watched a movie that was better than the book?" except I hadn't read the book and couldn't fairly say.

TerriOsburn said...

But it's not as if he looks like Richard Armitage.

MsHellion said...

Janga, I liked the philosophical levels shared in the movie, but I'm not sure if they come across in the book the same. I thought it was funny that he wanted to worship Christianity, Islam and Hindu at the same time. It was like he knew the value of God in everything...which I thought was neat, and possibly the most compelling case for vegetarianism.

I think we're all looking for more tiger to add to our story...but if anything, we can take hope from this guy. He wrote an odd book, heavy on exposition and philosophy, that got rejected everywhere and some tiny press printed it--and it went on to be book of the year or what have you.

MsHellion said...

Hal, the tiger and the boy are NOT friends. *LOL* And yes it's implausible. But when compared as a coping mechanism, you see the tiger WAS in the boat all along. It's interesting.

Also the boy trying to get a "truce" with the tiger: HILARIOUS. I mean, it's a LONG boat ride out in the middle of nowhere...I find it more improbable lived at all after all that than the bit about the tiger, but there are parts of the movie that are absolutely gorgeous.

My friend Holly says it wouldn't have been as interesting on small screen, but I think it would have been okay on my regular TV.

I also saw it as a 2D rather than 3D and don't think I lost anything.

And his name. *LOL* Oh, my!

MsHellion said...

Silver Lining's Playbook or something. It looks like a fairly standard rom-com, but apparently the hero is just out of a mental institution, and bat-shit crazy, which again, suddenly makes it WAY more interesting.

Ha! That does sound up my alley too!

MsHellion said...

Terri, it looks like Richard. Believe me I was confused why I was thinking a DWARF was so damned hot until I realized who it was.

Marnee Bailey said...

See, and with Silver Lining Playbook, I just wanted to see it because Bradley Cooper's in it.

Marnee=Shallow

P. Kirby said...

In which I have no idea who Richard Armitage is, and go a-Googling. Ah, I see. The only thing he's been in that I've seen is Captain America--not my fave in the Marvel franchise. Saw a few episodes of Robin Hood, but wasn't impressed with the series.

Anyway, pretty man is cast as Thorin Okenshield, the uber-heroic dwarf.

MsHellion said...

And Marn, that's why you're a part of the pirates--we're all incurably shallow. *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

He was in Captain America?? Huh. Kiddo and I adored that RH series, though I yelled at the TV constantly about how ridiculous it was. But we watched them all. He'd better known for his role in North & South and then the love interest of the Vicar of Dibley. Loved that show.

MsHellion said...

P.Kirby, the Richard Armitage fandom stems mostly from a BBC production called NORTH & SOUTH, where he plays a character named Mr. Thornton. *swoons* He's a terse asshole for like 3 hours of the movie, but by the fourth hour, you're like, "You know, he's not that bad." And then he kisses the heroine and it's swoony-good-delicious!

Basically we all watch 3 hrs and 45 minutes of proper stiff upper lip Britishness to get a kiss at a train station.

MsHellion said...

I loved the Vicar of Dibley...OMG, hilarious! *LOL*

P. Kirby said...

Um, yeah, period British dramas...definitely not my thing.

Apparently Armitage was somebody named Heinz Kruger in Captain America. From AMD, I get that he's the German assassin who suicides, rather than being captured. I don't remember him at all. *Shrugs* I think CA was one of the weakest in the Avenger-lead-up movies. We don't own it; only seen it once.

TerriOsburn said...

I've never seen any of the Avengers movies. Not a comic book fan. I do like the Batman franchise but have yet to see the last one.

Maureen said...

What movies have I seen lately? Well, Skyfall...which was a great Bond film and I loved that it dealt with his growing older. Saw Cloud Atlas. Saw Taken 2, several animated movies... Oh, and Flight... Wreck it Ralph had everything else...

Not sure any of them needed a tiger, but I get the idea. Intend to see Life of Pi. I was working the bookstores when it was all the rage. Didn't read it. Rage books usually let me down.

Can't wait for the Hobit! Hope to still see Lincoln, Chasing Mavericks and the Man with the Iron Fist (if it's still out anywhere).

I don't think my current WIP needs a tiger. Maybe a fierce kitten...

irisheyes said...

The previews look incredible for LIFE OF PI, Hellie. Didn't read the book and probably won't go see the movie, though.

Even though I'm with Marn on the romance with the guaranteed HEA, I want to see LINCOLN!!!! I mean, let's face it, we all know how it ends. (That's the DH's newest joke - going around telling everyone how LINCOLN ends) It has Daniel Day-Lewis and it's about Lincoln, though, what more could I want! LOL

You haven't even seen IRON MAN, Ter, with Robert Downey, Jr.? Even I like those movies and I'm not a big superheroes or action/adventure gal, either. I saw AVENGERS and really liked it.

irisheyes said...

The DH is a huge LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT fan. He will probably go opening night and we'll have to stop him from dressing up as one of the characters and embarrassing all of us.

TerriOsburn said...

Irish, I tried Iron Man and cannot tolerate the character of Tony Stark. He's just an asshole with money. Kiddo and I turned it off. Though Kiddo saw Avengers this summer and says I should see it. I might catch it on video.

Maureen said...

You probably would like the Avengers. Tony has his good points but his bad are brought to light, too. And the Hulk smacks Thor...so worth it!

TerriOsburn said...

I've heard over and over that Hulk steals the movie. And it's Whedon humor so I'm willing to give it a try.