Review: The fantastic Life of Pi

Last updated 09:30 25/01/2013
life of pi
LIFE OF PI: It is an adaptation of an acclaimed bestseller.

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I went and saw Life of Pi with my eldest son. It was fantastic and I recommend 3D as the film is very colourful and cinematic.

I read the book a few years ago and recommend you do that too. This is a great movie adaptation. I wondered how they would actually do it, as the book is almost impossible to adapt visually but Taiwanese director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Dragon/Hidden Tiger) and David Magee (Finding Neverland) pulled off an amazing job.

The plot: the Indian family of Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel sell their zoo and decide to move to Canada, intent on selling the animals in North America and building a new life. The ship is lost at sea but Pi survives with a few animals - including a large vicious Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker - in a life boat and raft. Pi survives (just) for 277 days on a raft tied to the lifeboat by a rope in which the tiger is stranded. The book and film have one of the best endings ever, on a par with Sixth Sense. Go and see it to find out, no spoiler here.

Pi is brilliantly played by a series of actors at various ages.

I love the opening sequence where the movie moves in slowly, capturing the magic and wonder of the animal kingdom. This is quite a metaphysical film, with Pi traversing Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. It asks who we are and how God communicates with humanity.

There are some wonderful scenes. I noted particularly the dramatic sinking of the ship, the whales, the flying fish episode, and of course the drama throughout with a massive tiger in a boat just a stone's throw away where all the canned food and water is. There is a lovely moment when the tiger is hanging on to the side of the lifeboat and the boy/tiger have a moment with their eyes.

I think Lee spent a lot of time filming an actual tiger in a lifeboat, as any CGI is invisible to detect.

The movie portrays the realities of this implausible scenario with brilliant detail, to the point you can imagine it totally happening. There were no cringe moments.

This is a movie about the power of story, and how science knows only some, religion knows a whole lot more.  Those who mock religion would benefit from seeing this great film.

For me there are some key dialogue moments that reveal what the movie is really about: the Christian priest in India (we cannot understand God in His perfection, so he came as one of us, to be accessible); Pi's mother interpreting Pi's father's rationality (head vs heart); Pi's conversations with God in the lowest moments amid the storms; and Pi's wrap-up about what is true at the end of the film with the writer looking for a story for a novel. 

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The film seeks to explain to us that the meaning and function of stories can be many things, on many levels, because that is what humans are like. This is the obvious contrast with a marooned boy named after a mathematical formula, and the number Pi which is infinite and not divisible. Look for the conclusions about what actually happened by the Japanese insurance assessors at the end, in their report to the Japanese company who owned the ship.

One of my favourite quotes helps sum up this movie. Pablo Picasso, perhaps the artist of the 20th century, said, "Art is a lie that helps us to understand the truth."

I heartily recommend this film to parents of children, lovers, philosophers, people interested in the oddity of life, and probing the depths of who God is, and why this world.

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