Plot: A man named Pi retells the story of when he and a tiger were stranded at sea after a shipwreck to a writer seeking a story.
Review: Life of Pi was fantastic. Not just because of the story, which is heartwarming and enjoyable but also because of the ambition and the themes that Ang Lee is trying to present. Life of Pi can be viewed as Ang Lee’s view on movie making and story telling in general. But that’s discuss the film first. The story is simple in plot if not in execution. A boy and a tiger are lost at sea. At the beginning, there are also a zebra, a orangutan, and a hyena are also on board but the tiger and hyena quickly make feasts of them until the tiger does the same to the hyena. Ang Lee fills the film with great imagery and some of the best use of 3D that I have ever seen. The 3D is to immerse you into the world instead of having things pop out at you to pull you out of the film. The cinematography is truly something to behold and it makes you realizes that we may be wasting CGI’s abilities with what we are doing with it now. But more than that in the first half, where we see Pi getting his name, gaining his three religions and growing as a boy does Lee fill each frame with such beauty, without giving a cliche’d version of India, that you could watch the film with the sound off and still get an enjoyable experience with it. Pi’s real name is Piscine Molitor Patel after a swimming pool in France and the way and why of him changing his name is a great introduction to the character and a great example of Pi’s refuse to lay down and be wronged which will come back later. The acting is also well done and Suraj Sharma never lets you remember that you are watching what is basically a computer screen. You believe him and care about him even when Pi is unlikable, which as a boy who is searching for himself is more often than not.
For the theme and what it has to do with filmmaking. Spoilers follow: The theme is told you at the beginning of the story: A story that is so incredible that it will make you believe in God. It is meant to be a story of faith and hope as Pi is tested again and again. This story is a bit heavy-handed (although not as much as one would think) and it becomes clear that the Tiger, named Richard Parker, is God and the sea is his test of faith. But of course the film is meant for families and for what it’s worth a well done story is worth being a bit heavy handed. The theme is good and at least is able to raise questions about religion and God and why things happen that a lessor director may not have been able to touch. But where does the second theme come in? Well again MAJOR SPOILERS at the end he tells the writer what happened after he was found. When trying to tell his story, the officials don’t believe him so he tells another story where the other animals were in fact his mother and two other crew members who Pi in turn killed and eat to survive. In this story Pi, himself was Richard Parker and uses the tiger as a way to deal with the guilt and shame of his actions. The movie never tells you which story is true but Pi presents it as: Which story do you prefer? explaining that in each story Pi is punished suffers and survives so the way Pi was changed is the same, only the horrors are different. Again a bit heavy handed but it does bring in a second theme or question that Lee wants the audience to ponder. This one is about story telling and in a lot of ways film making. There is always that thought when a movie is made about a true event especially a dark one of why is there a need to tell the story and really even movie or creative work this question should be asked. And this film gives an answer of sorts, story tellers tell stories because they want to help you understand their thoughts or their beliefs as well as what the story is literally about. Such as Pi with his story of faith. And they embellish or even change the story to help prove or strengthen their point or answer. It’s to help the listener or viewer understand what they are trying to say without realizing it. It’s why stories need to be told and why we still search out stories. It’s the most important thing that a story teller must know if he is to be creative. And Ang Lee manages to tell it in a story of tiger because sometimes the tiger is looking at the moon and sometimes he’s looking at all of the universe.
Don’t miss this film.
Trivia: The Piscine Molitor swimming pool in France is in fact a real place and has been classified as a French monument historique.