Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain
Length: 127 minutes
Rating: 4 Stars
Life of Pi follows the story of a young boy whose father owns a family zoo in Pondicherry, in India. Upon his birth, the boy was given the name ‘Piscine’ (French for ‘swimming pool’), stirring up a number of malicious jokes and nicknames in school. Determined to end the name-calling and bullying, Piscine shortens his name to ‘Pi’, relating it to the mathematical constant.
When the business in the zoo crashes, Pi’s father makes the decision to move and start afresh, taking the animals with them and continuing to look after them. Disaster strikes and the cargo ship they are travelling on experiences a tragic accident. Pi is violently torn away from his family and the beautiful life he once knew in India is but a washed out memory. Pi must persevere alone, but not without the company of some familiar creatures of the wild.
Lee captures the elegance which Yan Martel’s novel holds effectively, and this is a defining theme of the cinematography. But (although I understand this may lie in personal taste), there is an issue with pace, especially towards the beginning of the film. Although full of message and metaphor, character building and people are key for me, and thus I think the plot translates better onto the page than on screen.
The beginning of the film, when Pi is explaining the origins of his name and his childhood, has a gentle humour which is surprising, somewhat relatable and sweetly amusing. I found it a lovely contrast with the scenes of upset, desperation and exhaustion later on. Ayoush Tandon (11/12 yrs Pi) and Suraj Sharma (Pi) brought quirkiness to the role that had the audience laughing in all the right places and particularly Suraj Sharma brought to light that quirky awkwardness that is funny and charming in young adults. Adult Pi (Irfan Khan) and Rafe Spall (Rafe Spall), also had a pleasant bit of banter.
The film is a visual masterpiece. The cinematography was absolutely stunning. Normally I’m with Nolan when it comes to view of 3D, “The question of 3D is a straightforward one; I never meet anybody who actually likes the format,” but if you do have the little extra money I urge you to see it in 3D. The camera work in general is awesome. This film bursts with colour, particularly the shots of India. The little CGI that is used in the opening brings everything to life, drawing the audience in immediately. The animators are to be congratulated – they bring superb the realism to the animals, notably the tiger: Richard Parker’s textured fur coat, the emotion in his eyes, the movements, the human aspects and natural animalistic habits make the story so believable (the soulful human nature of the tiger is certainly debatable). The special effects on the sea are truly haunting and without sounding too ‘Disney’, enchanting.
But, what what would the film be without its message? The film is effective in forcing one to think about religion and reason, truth and faith. It expresses the importance of experience, family, storytelling; dealing with unexpected situations and how humans without humanity can be no better than mere animals. By no means did the film preach, or make me feel uncomfortable. All it did was casually throw in the question of God’s existence from a Christian to an atheist. The story is left open to interpretation and with that you may make an informed judgement for yourself.