Sunday, January 20, 2013

Life of Pi

Ang Lee's Life of Pi, based on the acclaimed novel by Yann Martel, was a movie which I found to be incredibly... complex. It's a word I feel that I and others use too often, but it's quite honestly the best word to use if I were to begin talking about the story. Even immediately after seeing it two months ago, I found trying to even begin any conversation that would go deeper than just saying how I felt after the film would be too tangled in hyperbole. Instead, I'll in fact just talk about how I feel. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd love to contribute to the discussion about the film's themes and imagery. Then again, when I've read some more scholarly opinions of the story, they just don't ring true to me.

That is perhaps how I know I was changed by the film. It makes such a personal connection with you as the individual that I'm reminded of films like Cloud Atlas and The Tree of Life. Movies that tackle questions about life and purpose through a visual storyteller's eye. Not all questions are answered, but that's the reality of being. Still, like the other two films I just mentioned, Life of Pi is certainly a welcome voice of idealism in a world that has entertainment that can be so dark, nihlistic, and even pompous.

Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is living in Canada and recounting his life story to a novelist (Rafe Spall) that was referred to Pi by a family friend. Pi claims he can make the novelist believe in god. The story suitably begins here and then flashes back to Pi's youth (with the character being played by newcomer Suraj Sharma). Pi's family owns a zoo and they plan to have the animals transported on a freighter across the Pacific to Canada. When the freighter is shipwrecked during a storm, Pi finds himself alone on a life raft with a tiger whom was nicknamed "Richard Parker" (search 'Richard Parker (shipwrecked)' on Wikipedia for some interesting backstory into the meaning of the name).

An aspect I did find incredibly compelling was the dynamic between Pi and Richard. Richard will eat Pi in a second, but Pi quickly realizes that he must learn to co-exist with the animal. Pi has to survive and push the limits of what he must've thought he could be capable of. Yet the tiger has much stricter limits its as its brain is quite simple and functions on survival inherently above all else. So while trying to tame the limited animal, Pi finds himself thinking about religion, a concept with unlimited potential just in discussion alone. This search for purpose to guide him is what carries the story alongside some incredibly beautiful visuals. Lee and his crew make use of the 3D, knowing best when to use it and when best to not. Like recent famous directors to have used 3D such as Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Wim Wenders (Pina), and Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Lee's art comes first to give the imagery a heart before he 'wows the audience'.

Sharma gives an incredible performance and like many new talents, he feels like a breath of relevatory fresh air. How his name hasn't been mentioned more this awards season is a puzzle to me aside from the obvious reason of this being his first film. Spall and Khan also make great use of their limited screen time. They bookend the movie and the final scene is incredibly touching with a great use of score, editing, and a slow push in towards young Pi's face then cutting to Khan with a tear dripping down cheek.

There's a lot in this film to talk about. The feeling you leave the theater with if you are moved by the piece, is certainly easier, more pleasant, and more important to experience than to try and talk about god, survival, 3D, or digital tigers.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, excellent videography, drama, action, thought-provoking, loved it!! Watched it twice and then read the book. Highly recommended except for young children.

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