Film review: Life of Pi
December 19, 2012
Thank goodness Ang Lee got his hands on Life of Pi, rather than the once-touted M Night Shyamalan.
The director of cinematic treats Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain is known for creating visually arresting screen gems, while Shyamalan’s track record leaves a lot to be desired.
Turning this much-loved modern literary classic into something that works on the big screen was no mean feat. Lee has succeeded in combining his superior storytelling capabilities with a dose of magic realism and some genuinely beautiful touches to weave a wonderfully moving – if sometimes sentimental – film.
The story concerns a man named Pi (Irrfan Khan) recounting the incredible story of his life to writer Rafe Spall. His childhood tale is conveyed in flashback.
When his family is forced to move the family business – a zoo – from India to Canada, a shipwreck leaves 17-year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma) stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.
What develops is the emergence of a remarkable relationship between man and beast, where each must depend upon the other to survive.
With the focus on one character trapped and alone, Life of Pi has echoes of Danny Boyle’s equally captivating 127 Hours, and Lee uses elements of magic realism, just as Boyle did, to convey his main protagonist’s state of mind.
The result is a beautifully shot film that relies on the way it looks to communicate the experiences of the marooned teenager as well as the power, monstrosity and splendour of nature, and of humanity.
Shot in 3D, it should be enhanced by a medium that by definition should add another dimension to what we see, but instead it lessens the film’s visual impact, since the format dulls colours on screen and affects the clarity and definition of the action.
This aside, Life of Pi is a stirring story that stays with you; it’s one that depicts the ambivalent, brutal yet beautiful characteristics of the natural world, and one which explores the themes of hope, fate and man versus nature. As Pi embarks on his spiritual and emotional journey, Lee allows us to go through it with him, every step of the way.
In short, Life of Pi is a triumph.