Many said that Life of Pi was unfilmable. These people obviously do not know Ang Lee. Not to mention the state of moviemaking we are currently in, where just about damn near anything is possible with the level of computer graphics we’ve reached, and the title of ‘unfilmable’ is pretty much restricted to works like Paradise Lost. A quaint fictional book about spirituality, the essence of God, and the nature of believability seems to fit well within our current parameters of what is filmable, and as Ang Lee proves, Life of Pi certainly fits the screen well.
Piscine Molitor Patel (which he shortens to Pi to avoid derogatory references to the pronunciation of his name) is a young teenager in India, who spent most of his childhood hopping from religion to religion in a personal search of purpose and reason and the meaning of God. His father, who owns a zoo, is forced to sell it and all the animals in an emigration to Canada, to which Pi and his family tag along. Well, during the journey, their ship sinks, and the only survivors for the next 227 days are Pi, and an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. First off, this film was hyped as “the next Avatar” upon release, and I can see why; the visuals in this film are nothing short of breathtaking, and it is one of the very rare films that I would actually advocate people see in 3D if they can. A little to-do was made after the film’s release that the company that did the visual effects for the film, Rhythm & Hues, went bankrupt after making the film, and yes, I would side with the visual effects community on that one; for the company that made this achievement possible to go under as a result of making this achievement possible means that something is definitely wrong with how Hollywood procures its special effects people, but that’s an argument for a different blog. The story may not seem like much; two-hundred-some days on a lifeboat with nobody but a Bengal tiger to keep you company (as comforting a thought as that may be), but a surprising amount of stuff happens in this film, and it never feels like too little or nothing is happening. The cast, while minimal (seriously, Gerard Depardieu’s role amounts to two scenes and about four minutes of total screen time, despite the fact that his presence in the film was marketed beyond belief), do excellent jobs, but of course, it is the exceptional discovery of Suraj Sharma as Pi that holds the film together at its core.
Much was made of the film’s exploration of the concept of God and spirituality, with many people claiming the film, to them, had qualified as a revelatory religious experience. I didn’t get that; maybe it was the constant reminder that the film was fictional, but the film didn’t nearly affect me as much as it did other people. That said, I still loved this to pieces. It has the right combination of mood, sincerity, and storytelling prowess to always be interesting, and coupled with the amazing visuals, means this has must see written all over it. This is definitely one to go out of your way to see; despite its cultural customs, this really has something to offer just about everyone, which is one of the best things I can say about a really good film. Now let’s just hope the next Life of Pi doesn’t flounder its visual effects people like this one did.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10