Life of Pi: The film
LIfe of Pi: The Novel
What did you think of the film?
When I heard that Ang Lee was pegged with the task of adapting Yann Martel’s brilliant novel Life of Pi into film, I was skeptical. After all, Lee is the same director whom butchered Annie Proulx’s dysfunctional and abusive homosexual love story, Brokeback Mountain, by turning it into a poignant romantic tragedy starring two of Hollywood’s hunkiest dudes. I was also pleased that M. Night Shyamalan turned down the offer. After all, Life of Pi didn’t need a twist ending. It needed to be told as true to form as Martel wrote it.
For the most part, Lee, and screenwriter David Magee, succeeded, though I do have two complaints. My main complaint is the love story that was added which did not exist in the book. The thread of this romance comes and goes in a matter of minutes really adds nothing to the film. Also, the book dedicates many pages to exploring Pi’s faith. Pi grew up Hindu but ended up “finding God” also through both Islam and Christianity. While this is mentioned in the film, it is not a thread followed to the extent that it is in the book.
Aside from this, the film was brilliant and Lee showed great restraint and skill in keeping the film at a PG rating. With many opportunities for gratuitous animal on animal violence, Lee, in true Hitchcockian form, leaves it up to the actors and the imagination. Lee also discovers a gem in Suraj Sharma in the lead role of Piscine Molitor Patel, AKA, Pi.
Pi grew up in Pondicherry, India, a French province of India. His family owned a zoo and, after his father decides to sell the zoo and leave India for Winnipeg, Pi, family (mom, dad and older brother Ravi) and animals set sail aboard the Japanese cargo ship the Tsimtsum for the journey to Canada. After a fierce storm, the ship sinks, leaving only Pi, a hyena, an orangutan named Orange Juice and a tiger named Richard Parker, as the only survivors; adrift aboard a life raft in the immense Pacific Ocean. Before long, only Pi and Richard Parker remain, forming a bond which only survival can create. Adventures with sharks, with flying fish, and even with a carnivorous island, make for a fantastic journey which you will have you feeling every emotion Pi and his companion feel.
But the story isn’t about a shipwreck. This is not some mindless adventure story. If it was, they would have surely pegged Michael Bay to direct the film and seen how many explosions they could put in the middle of the ocean. No. This film is about hope, it’s about all the cliches of man versus nature, it’s about the strength of the human will, but, more than that, it’s about faith.
The book, which promises to make you believe in God, translates well to the silver screen. It was visually stunning, and sonically astounding. This is one film where 3D actually made sense and added to the film. Lee made the correct decision to create an expressionistic film which adequately captures Pi’s thoughts and feelings. The empathy and bond Lee created with Pi, Parker and the audience was real and I felt many times as if I were on that tiny life boat with Pi and the tiger Richard Parker. I felt Pi’s anguish at losing his entire family and I felt the triumphs in his many little victories at sea.
In a rare case of filmmaking, the film stands up well to the book, but, will also appeal to those whom have not read it. While it’s not a perfect translation, it would be hard to find a better one.