Life of Pi: 3D version

23 Dec

         

I read Life of Pi by Yann Martel after a friend recommended it to me  in 2006.  At the time, I thought it was an impressive read and wondered how it would transfer onto celluloid and if there was any producer out there who had the vision to bring it to the big screen.

My prayers were answered when I watched Ang Lee’s film adaptation today in 3D.

The Life of Pi starts at a slow pace with the introduction of a local writer (Rafe Spall) who visits Pi Patel (an older version of Pi played by Irrfan Khan), who has been referred to him by his “honorary uncle”,  believing that Pi’s life story would make a great book. Pi relates an extended tale:

Pi provides a brief history of his birth, his parents and brother in India and his upbringing in their own zoo, which is situated in the towns Botanical Gardens and the origins of his name. The boy is named Piscine Molitor (after a swiiming pool in France) and after being constantly ridiculed and embarrassed by his name, he decides to change his name to Pi after the mathematical symbol. These scenes are told in flashback and are slightly reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire. We are introduced to various animals and the roles they play in Pi’s life. We also find out that Pi has a strong interest in Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, constantly questionning and challenging all that he sees and hears.

As Pi recalls, we see a teenage version (played by unknown Suraj Sharma making his acting debut) and  how he had just started to love a young dancer when his dad announces that they are to move to Canada.  We see events unfold as the family board the ship that sets sail for Canada Anyone familiar with the story would know how it develops, and how Pi manages to survive the sinking of the ship. The scene evokes parallels to James Camerons Titanic, and there is a sense of sadness and pathos.  From that scene, the film had me engrossed and I was transfixed, wanting to know how would Ang Lee manage to direct the experiences of Pi (as told in the book version) from the minute the cargo ship and its passengers were caught in the thunderstorm which sinks to how Pi ends up on a lifeboat with a hyena, orangutan, zebra and a Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker. The scene is very realistic in that it didn’t look as over the top as Ang Lees previous offering The Hulk, which was very superficial and contrived in places. The hyena kills the zebra and Orangutan and, in his turn, the tiger kills the hyena, which almost depicts survival instincts of the animal world. It leaves Richard Parker and Pi on the lifeboat together. When Pi somehow manages to land on an island full of Meerkats, it  created a glow of warmth inside my stomach. It was touching and comforting at the same time.

The impression of Pi and the Bengal Tiger trying to survive the great journey over the pacific ocean covers a number of themes, which includes how man has to work with nature in order to survive, friendship, seclusion and isolation which brings to mind the saying ” No man Is An Island”. The ocean scenes were amazing a la Avatar, breathtaking and beautiful to behold, Suaraj was slightly wooden at times and in some scenes, he reminded me of Sabu (an actor of Indian origins as seen in The Thief of Baghdad circa 1950’s) But he may be forgiven as this is his landmark debut.

As the story develops, we feel for Pi and the tiger,  drawing on the qualities of man’s inner strengths, his feelings and thoughts about God, nature vs nurture, and his search for home/land. We are drawn to Pi and all that he encounters and endures on his journey. We share his bewildered perception of the world and how he sees the ocean, bold and dangerous.

Overall, the Life of Pi in 3D is a spiritual fable, smooth and simple in it’s storytelling but a fascinating and visual feast!

The Learned Kat

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