I have been meaning to write about my take on "Life of Pi" ever since I saw the movie. I have not been fortunate enough to have read the book, so my interpretation is restricted to Ang Lee's version of the story. If you have neither read the book nor seen the movie and intend to read or see the same, please do not read beyond this point!
I would not delve into the artistic majesty of Ang Lee’s motion picture, for in my opinion, the proof of the pudding is in eating. No words that I use can describe the beautiful cinematography of the movie. So I shall stay away from writing about it. Instead, I will talk only about two aspects, both being intertwined – (1) Which of the two Stories I prefer? And (2) How does it help one understand God Better?
I believe the answer to the first is the means to answering the second. It does not matter whether the answer to the first is right or wrong, but what matters is why we select the option that we do.
I will try to take you through the chain of thoughts that I went through while attempting to understand these two questions. It started during the scene where the Japanese officials are interrogating Pi. Here he first describes the story that we had seen. Then when being pressed for the actual truth he tells the other story, the one without any animals, but with Human Beings. The first story is a journey through a fantastic world where the human spirit triumphs against all odds. On the other hand the second story talks about the harsh reality of the world, where a man (the cook) is willing to let his fellow human (the Buddhist) die so that he himself can survive. It talks about the wild animal in each of us that surfaces (represented by the tiger) when an injustice has happened and it talks about revenge which is intrinsic to the human race (Shown by the death of the cook at the hands of Pi as a vengeance for the murder of his mother). What follows is a long Journey, where an innocent child is confronted by the wild beast within and the uncertainty of his own identity that follows. The journey in my opinion is the one which helps the child come at peace with himself, and realizing that had it not been for the tiger, he would have perished. The proverbial tiger helped him not only while defending himself against the devious cook, but also helping him survive when faced with the alternative to eat fish or die of hunger. And once the boy reached the safety of the shore, the tiger within was no longer required, and hence he went away - never to be seen again.
As you may have realized, I felt the second story more plausible. But given a choice would I have "preferred" the second story over the first? Would I have preferred "Harsh Reality" to "Fantasy"? An honest answer would be "NO". And this is the case with the majority of the people who have seen the movie or read the book.
But how does it help understand God better? The author answers this when following the Canadian author in the story saying that he prefers the first story, Pi says "It is the same way with God". So, What do you prefer - a world with a benevolent God taking care of you from the heavens or a world devoid of a God, a world where nobody is looking after your wellbeing other than you yourself! Belief in existence of God makes this earthly journey more enjoyable, carefree while on the other hand lack of an overseeing god makes this journey more fearsome and challenging. So would you prefer a world with a God or one without? And hence majority of the world does believe in one God or the other. By this I do not mean to say a god exists or not- for I am in no position to say either (and I have met no person who could logically make me understand it).
For those who prefer a world without a God, it is most probably because they prefer a world where they are the master of their destiny and not an unknown existence deciding their destiny for them.
So, in my opinion, the story does help both theists and atheists understand God better or maybe understand themselves better.