Life of Pi
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, and Adil Hussain
Written by: David Magee (screenplay), Yann Martel (novel)
Reviewed by: Scott Anderson
Based on the bestseller of the same name, Life of Pi brings to life the tale of an Indian boy trapped at sea with a hungry Bengal tiger. This predicament is just the vessel that acclaimed writer Yann Martel uses to dive into the question of faith and hope when it seems that the powers that be have put you up against the wall with seemingly no way out.
When word got out that they would bring this loved book to film many of its’ readers were scratching their heads wondering how on earth you could make this movie from a book so steeped in metaphorical language, I was not one of those for I had not read the book but heard its’ praises from my wife that reads and reads and reads. There are films that do not make the transition well from book to movie and there were many who thought that this would be a miserable failure and not live up to the book that touched so many lives. Enter Ang Lee, critically acclaimed film director of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain to bring what seemed to be a daunting task to a theater near you.
The film is narrated by an older Pi telling this unbelievable story to a writer for a possible book and narration is utilized throughout the film. As Pi begins to tell the story we are at his fathers’ zoo with beautiful shots of its residents and an explanation of why Piscine (Pi) was named so and how he went about creating his own nickname, Pi. The name caused him many problems through his younger years because Piscine sounds very much like “pissing.” In the end it is not all that important but I thought it was a great way to show Pi’s resourcefulness and intelligence, two characteristics that will be tested throughout the film. Pi is also a very curious boy went it comes to faith and there are little anecdotes about the many religions Pi follows as a child, this brings about some humorous situations that set the stage for the rest of the film, further developing his character.
Pi’s family has to leave India for Canada and is taking the Zoo with them to relocate. The family and animals board a ship bound for Canada that enters a storm that will change Pi’s life forever. He is the lone survivor, well lone human survivor and is on the same life boat as a Tiger, Hyena, and an Orangutan; as you might imagine this foursome is soon a twosome.
Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger, embark on a journey that will pin them against each other in the quest for survival. So many themes are woven into this film but none more evident than man versus nature as Pi and Richard Parker battle each other for food and living space while dealing with natural enemies beyond their own conflict.
Life of Pi is a visual masterpiece, as one may expect from Lee, I have read that the 3D was top notch and a perfect blend of immersion and beauty but unfortunately I did not see it in 3D, I saw this film in 2D. Many compared it to Avatar in its’ use of 3D technology and I am sorry that I did not see it that way but I was impressed anyhow. One of the main characters, Richard Parker, is done with computer graphics but the realism is uncanny and when I saw it I thought it was a “real” tiger. Only after reading about the film did I understand that to be the case, some complained that you could tell when it went form true shots to CGI but I was not one of those people. Maybe it was better for that reason in 2D but either way it is not a deal breaker. Ang Lee uses so many different camera angles and shots, mixing reality and fantasy seamlessly throughout the whole film that that alone is worth the price of admission. This film should be celebrated as a visual masterpiece.
Life of Pi is a story of survival, faith and perception and at the stories end you may ask yourself a question but to get hung up on the correct answer is to miss the point of the story.