Life of Pi delivers a powerful cinematic adventure
With Life of Pi, director Ang Lee took on a considerable challenge. The practical issues presented by Yann Martel’s 2001 award winning novel become glaringly obvious from the premise that places a young man adrift at sea in a lifeboat shared with a Bengal tiger. Yet another important question Lee may have been faced with was, how to reach an increasingly God-less public with this strikingly spiritual tale. The 2011 English and Welsh census has recently revealed a 10% increase in those who consider themselves to be of no religion compared to 2001′s numbers. Luckily, Lee and screenwriter David Magee have risen to the occasion by, not only taming the logistical beasts of such a production, but also by ensuring Life of Pi is able to resonate with believers and sceptics alike.
Lee’s Life of Pi takes place in the form of an adult Piscine Patel (Irrfan Khan) recounting his most unique life-story to Rafe Spall’s nameless novelist; one that would, according to rumour, “make me believe in God”, but not before an array of exotic animals take to the screen during the opening credits. They provide a stunning introduction to the kind of gorgeous aesthetics Lee and director of photography Claudio Miranda have in store for the audience. The delightful origin of Pi’s name makes for a warm welcome to his world, which again allows for several dazzling scenes, including excellent underwater imagery. The meat of the plot comes when the Patel family’s Canada-bound ship goes down amidst a terrible storm. Included in the ship’s cargo is a large collection of zoo animals. Having managed to escape on a lifeboat, which happens to also contain a severely injured zebra, Pi (now played by Suraj Sharma) finds himself lost at sea. However, it is soon revealed that they are not alone on the canvas covered boat and before long, survival of the fittest leaves Pi in a test of wills with Richard Parker, a fierce, hungry Bengal tiger. The journey and how it unfolds is inspiring, but intentionally unbelievable, as Martel’s story serves as a contemplative allegory for belief, whatever form that belief might take.