Celebrating Great Films

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life of Pi

#227 at time of writing.

A boy (the eponymous Pi) and his family are migrating from Pondicherry to Canada on a large container ship, with all of the animals from their family zoo on board. The ship wrecks and Pi is stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a fierce Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The film is an aesthetic marvel, presented absolutely beautifully, just on the right line between reality and fantasy (reminiscent of Amelie - indeed Jean-Pierre Jeunet was attached as director before Ang Lee took over). The animals, for example, feel completely genuine even though they must be largely CGI.

M Night Shyamalan was originally slated to direct. Good thing he didn't because, well, he's rubbish.

Pi's narrative is interwoven with various musings on faith and religion, but the quirky nature of the story obscures any deeper meaning. However, the tale is always compelling, carried along with beauty and charisma until it reaches a crescendo of fantasy and then comes crashing back to reality.

The lifeboat is named Mignonette after the one in the real-life case of R v Dudley and Stephens - a fascinating and macabre story in its own right.

Yann Martel, the author of the Booker prize-winning book, has said he was inspired by a book review of Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar's 1981 novella Max and the Cats, about a Jewish-German refugee who crossed the Atlantic Ocean while sharing his boat with a jaguar.

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