Thursday, February 28, 2013

Film Review: Life of Pi (Ang Lee) 2012

Life of Pi

When I was at university I noticed that a friend of mine was reading Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi and that she had nearly finished.  I told her that I had read it too but only as we talked did I realise that I had never finished it.  Remembering that this was not the book’s fault but my own, I went home to finish it and we spent the night texting each other as we both neared the books incredible conclusion.  Neither of us are religious or spiritual but we were both amazed at the warmth and the tenderness granted to the big ideas of faith and mortality and met up after an all nighter to discuss the book over the sunrise (happy memories)...

The plot of the novel follows Piscine “pi” Patel  through an extraordinary journey with a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.  He grows up on his family’s zoo in Pondicherry, India, and begins to follow a number of different religions to find out which works best for him.  After a dispute about land, the zoo is sold to the local government and the family decides to transport the animals via boat to Canada.  During this voyage the boat sinks and Pi (Suraj Sharma) is left alone on a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan.  The boy and the animals must then form a basic alliance in order to survive.  The story was always considered unfilmable due to its reliance on inner monologue and magic-realist anthropomorphic animals (yet here it is with multiple Oscars)

There are a number of literary references that are important to the story, for example the obvious Moby Dick parallel (it is fruitless for a man to blame an animal simply for being an unsympathetic beast).  Much has been written about the novel and its themes and I imagine much will be written about the film. (Google the novel criticism for more info)

Cinematically, the special effects in the film are absolutely amazing.  The film opens with a credit sequence overlapping HD shots of animals in a zoo that uses such bright colours and beauty that it sets the tone perfectly.  By the end of the film I felt that I had seen such a rich palette of colours that I was physically a better person because of it, as if they had fruit-like medicinal value.

The ‘acting’ of Richard Parker is also fascinating, if a CGI tiger can be said to be acting.  Maybe it is more accurate to say that the design of the creature is amazing.  He felt to me like a dangerous, feline Wall-E, with so many expressions and deep characteristics.  You quite often forget that there is no tiger, especially when he is swimming.  I haven’t enjoyed a PG film this much in the cinema for about a decade...

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