Life of Pi
by Tony Medley
OK for children.
This is a
compelling, metaphysical adventure about an Indian teenager stranded in
a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a man-eating Bengal Tiger.
Although the first half-hour setting up Patek Pi's upbringing in
Pondicherry, India as the son of a zookeeper is slow enough to put you
to sleep, it picks up when the family decides to move their zoo to
Canada and boards a Japanese freighter.
marvelous 3-D, which is generally sublimated to the beauty of the
cinematography, the sinking of the freighter is as good as, if not
better than, the depiction of the sinking of the Titanic a decade ago.
Narrated by an
older Pi (Irrfan Khan) who is being interviewed by a writer (Rafe
Spall), the bulk of the film is about the fight for survival by
17-year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma), who finds himself adrift on a lifeboat in
the middle of the ocean with a Bengal Tiger as his companion. In the
first half hour setup, Pi was caught by his father trying to feed the
tiger by hand. His father grabbed him, remonstrating that, "The tiger is
not your friend. When you look in its eyes, what you see is yourself
It turns out
that the story is one long allegory (script by
based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel that has sold over 7 million
copies). Beautifully directed by Ang Lee the film does not
let one rest as Pi battles not only the sea but the tiger, named Richard
Parker. Richard Parker should be up for an Oscar® but, unbelievable as
it may seem, the tiger is a product of computer-graphics (CG)
technology, overseen by visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (“The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). It's so
well done that it's almost impossible to believe that the vicious tiger
roaming around the lifeboat is just an advanced version of Donald Duck.
Similarly, the massive Pacific Ocean
in which Richard Parker and Pi found themselves trapped was recreated in
Taichung, Taiwan, on the site of a former airport, in a tank that
measured 70 meters long, 30 meters wide
and 4 meters deep, with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons, that
allowed the filmmakers to generate a range of water textures. For the
sinking of the ship and the massive storm sequence, the tank’s water was
replaced by CG water!
I mention these technical details
because, interesting as the story and the movie are, the way the movie
was made is at least as interesting, and I came out of the film with as
many questions about them as I had about the meaning of the film, with
one of the better twist endings you'll encounter.
This is one of the best films of the