Director Ang Li has adapted to the screen a story that was previously thought to be unadaptable. Yann Martel's Booker prize winning Life of Pi. Li a chameleon of a director brings a fresh taste to the lost at sea motif.
Pi Patel( Suraj Sharma) was named more or less by his uncle. Pi's uncle was sick as a child and part of his treatment he was held upside down by his feet which gave him huge lung capacity. Due to the increased oxygen intake "Uncle" became a connoisseur of pools all over the world. The best being in France with water so clear it looked transparent. Based on that information Pi's father named him Piscine Molitor which was shorted to Pi. The name Piscine is not easy to grow up with Pi was called Pissing Patel and mocked his schoolmates. When he started high school he made the change to Pi but he was still called Pissing. One day decided to report that Pi was short for the Mathematics symbol pi. It did not stick until he started to write pi to more and more decimal points each day on the blackboard at school. Finally the whole school was watching as he did Pi on the blackboard to decimal points in the hundreds killing the nickname Pissing Patel.
A local journalist who knows Uncle a friend of Pi is sent to learn of his incredible story. The Journalist meets the Adult Pi ( Irrfan Khan) in his home in Montreal and they sit down to talk about his life story.
His family had the local Zoo and Pi was fascinated by the Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker a result of a mix up with the name of the person who caught him. Pi's Father taught him a tough lesson to show that the Tiger is not a friend but instead a fierce hunter that would rip of an of his limbs if given a chance.
Religion plays a major role in Pi's life. He was first hindu but as a pre- teen visited a church and then a temple soon after and adopted Christianity and the Muslim faith along with his Hindu principals.
The economy is bad in the local town of Pondicherry. Thus Pi's father decides to move the family to Canada and sell of the Zoo animals. The book passage on a Japanese commercial vessel and his family and that's were the adventure begins. Pi's father has a dispute with the ships cook (Gerard Depardieu) who is rude to his wife. Early in the voyage the ship heads into a sever storm. While his family sleeps Pi' heads up to the deck to check out the events. He is forced to abandon ship as the storm pounds and tosses the vessel about in the sea.
Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with a Lion, Zebra and Oranagatan and jackal He stakes claim to one end of the vessel and begins to negotiate with the other creatures.
A classic tale of one person against nature. Pi has a journal of sea survival that he reads religiously. He finds food supplies begins to fish and at a key moment in the film realises that he has to feed the tiger or he will become tiger food itself.
Richard Parker although ferocious is very susceptible to sea sickness. After surviving one particularly intense storm. The realise that they need each other and Pi nurses the tiger back to strength.
After an interlude on an Island that appears to be paradise but turns evil at night. They set off again eventually finding land and parting ways.
Pi is questioned by the Insurance company for the Japanese Freighter who are skeptical of his story therefore he tells them a different version of events that they are more likely to believe. The journalist is left to determine which version of the story is correct the 227 day adventure at sea with multiple animals or the story with four people that ends up with Pi as the last survivor.
The visuals in this film are spellbinding . Cinematographer Claudio Miranda fills the screen with rich colours. The ocean is vibrant displaying all shades of blues and greens. The sea creatures fish, whales, flying fish and dolphins are sharp and crisp. On particular sequence with a school of jellyfish is mesmerizing mastery. The night shots of the amphibians glow to the point that they seem almost ultraviolet. The daytime sky is a rich blue while Miranda's work relay shines in the depiction of the nigh-time sky in the pacific ocean.
David Magee produced an excellent screenplay. Its a story set mainly in the mind of a 17 year old boy. with no other speaking characters in a lifeboat with a tiger. The dialogue is a 2 hour soliloquy but keeps you engaged as Pi reads and reviews his survival guide and negotiates for turf in the raft.
Ang Lee created a magical story with excellent song, song and visual effects. It is a film that is definitely one of the top stories of the year. Shot with amazing cinematography and use of colours, Life of Pi is the best use of three D technology since its rebirth.
**** out of 4
Life of PI | Ang Li | U.S.A. / Taiwan| 2012 | 127 Minutes.