December 19, 2012
For those who have read the book, and for those who haven’t – Life of Pi equates to 2 words – Absolute Delight. Ang Lee has yet again proven his mettle as an extraordinary director. He manages to pull together a visual treat for even the hardest of techno buffs, weaving it in magnificently with the treasured Indian style of storytelling. The end result: two hours of sheer delight.
Life of Pi – The tale of a 16 year old boy, stranded on a lifeboat in the depths of the Pacific, with a Bengal Tiger for company. Translating Martel’s book on screen in the manner Lee has done demands applause. Equally remarkable are the performances, and in essaying the role of the lead protagonist, Suraj Sharma delivers a splendid debut. Tabu and Adil Hussain as Pi’s parents deliver well, in their short but well etched out roles. Irrfan Khan is brilliant as usual, the intense on his face reminiscent of Pi’s experiences, depicting a pain that leaves something with you long after the movie ends. Sharma rises well to the challenge, although in some places the emotions don’t strike with enough effect. His expressive eyes try to communicate the war between survival and belief, but the conflict and pain etched out so well on paper haven’t been fully realised on screen.
The film takes a while to pick up, and the background narrative could have been shorter. All however is made up for once Pi enters the world of the Pacific. Here Lee takes us through possibly one of the more premium uses of CGI and 3D, specifically giving a new life to the widely overrated latter technology. Whether it’s the lifeboat suspended in thin air or the reflections of sky in the ocean, Lee’s Life of Pi is a visual treat. Specifically the use of water as a connector throughout the film is an achievement in its own right. Stunning cinematography and metaphorism have been combined in an artistic fashion that reflects creative genius at its prime.
Named after a swimming pool, Piscine Molitor Patel, unable to bear taunts at school, adopts the mathematical symbol, ‘Pi’ for his name. In the quest of a better future, the Patel family seek a move to Canada with their animals, one of which is the other lead protagonist, Richard Parker. Enroute a storm hits their ship, leaving nothing but Pi and Richard Parker behind, and so begins a tale of faith and survival. The interactions between Pi and Richard Parker, forming majority of the movie, add a daunting layer of emotional connect. Parker is an extraordinary creation of technology. Both his physical features and compelling reality sum up to challenge the rational one’s logic of whether ‘animals can be friends’. Interestingly, Richard gives Pi, and us, the most important lesson of them all – life is but the name of moving on. Water carries the film along. Lee shows its majestic beauty and disastrous power simultaneously. It engulfs Pi’s world at first, orphaning the young skinny Indian boy into what is set to become his unbelievable reality. It threatens to kill with every wave that ripples along, yet the same water becomes a source of sustenance.
Mychael Danna does great justice to the music. He creates rhythms that blend in well with the mystical feel of the film, the music adds to the magical realism. Its beauty lies in how it orchestrates Pi’s learning process, as the young boy balances panic and compassion to raise some hope of survival.
Overall, Lee may well have just given us the movie of the year as he combines frightening realism and spiritual fable. It beautifully uses the land of spirituality to kick-start the process of belief in God. Does it work? Make that trip down to the cinema and judge for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Life of Pi releases in cinemas nationwide on the 20th December 2012.