Life of Pi – Movie Review
Life of Pi, Director Ang Lee’s colorful adaptation of Yann Martel bestseller, written with David Magee, is a treat for the senses at every level. While the visual effects are stunning (I did not watch the film in 3D), I was equally impressed with the cast, the performance of the players, the dialog, and the amazing journey. Inquisitive Ayush Tandon, as young Pi, is very charming. When Irrfan Khan says about his youth, “it was a time filled with wonder, that I’ll always remember”, the dialog seems apt for Tandon. Suraj Sharma is incredibly engaging in his epic journey of life and adventure. Adil Hussain and Tabu in the short roles as Pi’s parents, and Irrfan Khan as the narrator, seem richly genuine.
I fell in love with the character of Pi, in the first few minutes of the movie, when he questions his father who was chastising him for his belief in all religions, “Because believing in everything at the same time is the same as not believing in anything at all. Listen, instead of leaping from one religion to the next, why not start with reason?” I have had similar conversations with my daughter who questions my assertion that I am a religious person. “Name your religion”, she says and when I start naming them all, she says, “mom you may be spiritual, but you are not religious” and I disagree. I have yet to engage in effective practice of Yoga, Tai-Chi, or meditation that may comprise spirituality, but I find religion infinitely more interesting; an ability to believe, seems comforting; that while I tackle all life’s challenges, if I can’t, and give up, then it is ultimately someone else’s headache. As when Pi feels utterly lost and defeated by his ordeal in the ocean, he says, “I give myself to you. I am your vessel. Whatever comes, I want to know, show me”. I was equally enthralled with Pi’s imaginative given name and even better name he came up with, and then got it to stick, after impressive and dramatic demonstrations of the irrational number pi on a blackboard.
After loosing his family in a tragic shipwreck, during the deadly storm, Pi spent 227 days in the lifeboat, in an uneasy company of the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker (another interesting story of how the tiger ended up with his regal name). This is a story of transformation where a child becomes a man, first dealing with fear, then thirst, then hunger, threats from a hyena, then a fierce will to survive, loosing his rations in yet another deadly storm, unpredictability of the ocean, his face-off with the tiger and then his acceptance of the companion on board. In the end, he sums it up, “my fear of him kept me alert and tending to his needs gave me purpose”. This is a story about life, in every one of its forms, real and imaginary, and life can hardly ever exist, without the presence of other life. In Pi’s journey, the ocean sparkles. This reminds me of my expedition in the Himalayas, where I got up one night and wore my shoes and went outside the tent. I was shocked to see that under the full moon, the entire snowy universe sparkled with what looked liked a thousand tube lights. (I heard someone question the whole story & therefore not enjoy the movie). Indeed, why must we believe that reality is limited, when we have not experienced all of reality and from all the perspectives? Perhaps the senses are hightened or the reality is different at a certain altitude or in the middle of the night the ocean sparkles with phosphorescence, in an unimaginable way. After all, our experience with life is at such an infinitely small scale anyway.
In Pi’s journey, during a storm, the fish rained, and all other creatures, jellyfish and whales, had exaggerated features. The most stunning period in the journey was when Pi found himself on the algae covered island, fully inhabited by millions and millions of meerkats. Island’s fresh ponds were full of fish that swam at night but were dead in the day, and meerkats climbed up the trees to spend the nights in the trees. Pi finds a tooth of a human, inside a fruit and comes to the conclusion that the island is carnivorous. He stocks the lifeboat with dead fish and meerkats for Richard Parker and with sea weed for himself and calls Richard Parker and pushes off again into the sea. Stunning visual effects created by production designer David Gropman with Jean-Martin Desmarai and Director of Photography, Claudio Miranda, are awe-inspiring.
Life of Pi is full of questions that the movie does not seek to answer. While we might want a filmmaker to plant a flag, point to a path, the movie gets the viewer to do the soul searching. Ravishingly gorgeous visuals are embedded in an electrifying saga that tests human endurance and is anchored in bonding with other forms of life. This bonding that occurs at the level of the soul (Pi believes animals have souls you can connect with), and if one does not believe in soul, than the bonding that occurs through the senses. When Richard Parker walks off unceremoniously into the jungle, towards the end, Pi laments, “All of life is an act of letting go, but what hurts is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” I absolutely loved the movie and rate it a 4.9 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.