When I read the book, I understood why Life of Pi was pronounced unfilmable. Most of the plot revolves around a boy and a tiger on a boat. This is one of those cases where most would say â€œnothing happensâ€. This story which isn't blatantly cinematic didn't exactly have a formula for a great film. Its production was also jinxed as it changed directors from M. Night Shyamalan to Jean Pierre-Jeunet, an Indian-American and a Frenchman. These choices made sense since the book was written by a French-Canadian but set in the Indian backdrop. Finally, the job was handed over to Ang Lee who is neither French nor Indian. This told me how judgments could really throw you off sometimes and prevent you from discovering beauty. Lee takes on this crouching tiger and truly gives us a hidden dragon. He has always been expert at subtle drama and handling unspoken/ unfulfilled relationships with poignancy. It all ultimately fits. I would even go as far as saying the book was waiting to be filmed by him. Nobody else could have made it.
Visually, the film is unlike anything your eyes have seen before. It is just utterly magnificent. Avatar (2009), Hugo (2011), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Prometheus (2012) and now Life of Pi. Few films have exhibited actual use 3D and not thanklessly indulge in shoddy gimmickry. The images composed are so strikingly rich and alive that it would work even without 3D. There would be at least 10 instances where my mouth opened and I couldn't bring myself to let out a gasp since I was choked with amazement.
As most fables do, they transport you into a fantastical world while being an allegory on life. I personally love the character of Pi. He is relentless, a child of god who never ceases to give up hope. There is another character you take home with you: Richard Parker, the Royal Bengal Tiger. He isn't a cute dog that everybody in the audience falls for but a fearsome presence like King Kong. There are other wondrous creatures like a bioluminescent whale, an island swarming with meerkats and flying dorados. Magic realism on film has never been this good.
Suraj Sharma is soulful as Pi. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes onto become a Hollywood movie star like Freida Pinto. Although, the performance that blew me away was that of Irrfan Khan as the older Pi. In the scene where he talks about Richard Parker, two teardrops from his eyes moved me ever so deeply. The film will be getting several nominations at the Oscars, including the big ones. But if there is any justice in Hollywood (which there isn't, as we know), Irrfan Khan should be on his way to getting an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.
Mychael Danna's music is simply unbelievable. He uses Indian flutes, French accordions along with classical western violins. Pi's Lullaby (in Tamil) is achingly beautiful and it is accompanied with a gorgeous credits sequence that will make A. R. Rahman sit up with envy.
I was a bit concerned about a few sub-plots in the novel and especially the preface which deals with Yann Martel talking about how he came to write this story. This preface is now a sub-plot in the film as Pi gives the story to the writer and tells him to do whatever he wants with it. That writer is Ang Lee who has taken Martel's story and improved upon it. He squeezes out certain moments from the source material and gives it a new life. The ending of the film is classic Ang Lee and stands tall as one of his best closing moments alongside Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Lust, Caution (2007). It is safe to say he is one of those few filmmakers who can film any story of any genre and still make it better than the genre's luminaries. He is one of cinema's modern masters.
The question everybody will come out with after watching the film is whether it was real or not? I don't wish to go into this at all as I wholeheartedly believe Pi's tale without a single speck of doubt (I find it easier to believe than many films based on true stories). It isn't exactly believable how Sense and Sensibility, a Jane Austen novel that was fundamentally British was also perfectly filmed, not by a Briton, but by a Taiwanese filmmaker. It may seem far-fetched but it's the truth. Truth cannot be truth if it only comes out of knowledge and not experience. Life of Pi is that transcendental experience. There are many who will have issues with the film's thematic elements. Believe in god or not, but if you believe in cinema, you will surely be blessed with a gift. The word I would use to concisely describe Life of Pi is: â€œbeautifulâ€. This is most definitely one of my most favorite films of the year.view less