After watching Life of Pi
, I found myself lost in thought: Had I been in a fantastical allegorical delirium for two hours – or had I just watched one helluva good film about the redemptive power of storytelling?
Either way, hats off yet again to chameleon director Ang Lee
) who continues to solidify his place in filmmaking history as story-eller extraordinaire.
The film introduces us to protagonist Piscine Patel (Pi), and is based on the Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name authored by Yann Martel
(which, in the interests of full disclosure, I declare I have never read).
The centrepiece of Pi's life is his upbringing on his family's zoo in Pondicherry, India, which serves as a unique backdrop for a deep individual who questions his faith, goes to extraordinary lengths to be known as Pi rather than his school ground taunt-inviting full name, and who learns much from the zoo's inhabitants, including a fearless Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
With the heartache of leaving his first love, Pi and family (including the zoo animals) then immigrate by sea to Canada. One perfect storm later and disaster hits the entire ship, ultimately leaving Pi in the middle of the ocean, all alone except for the company of Richard Parker.
What emerges is a visually enticing expedition of self-discovery by Pi (played by the incredibly talented star-in-the-making Suraj Sharma
) confronted by a beautiful but relentless sea. Pi's capacity for mental and physical survival quickly becomes imperative, with antagonist Richard Parker offering both Pi's immediate danger and his salvation.
With the alluring canvasses of both a colourful India and monotonous ocean, the plot alone is perfect for Lee's talents. While the story is more important than the special effects, the end result is stunning – the imagery is terrifyingly real, and the perfect companion for a film with, at times and necessarily so, sparse dialogue.
Perhaps the complexities of the film are slightly undermined by the impression that certain aspects of the story are contrived, coupled with a somewhat explicit explanation of the film at the end (although don't get me wrong – it's not overly explicit like, say, the closing scenes of Hitchcock's Psycho
That small criticism aside, the beauty of the film comes in part from the questions it raises rather than any possible answers. After all, Life of Pi
suggests that the truth can often be a story without surprises.
Whether it be imagination or magical realism, Life of Pi
is the perfect film for the Christmas break, and is definitely worth the 3D big-screen experience.
Watch the trailer here