JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Life of Pi (Director: Ang Lee) - March 12, 2014

Life of Pi

5 5
127 min.

The Mother of all religions

Very happy to finally have a chance to see Life of Pi. As a child, I had several sleepless nights after watching Brian Keith hot on the trail of a ferocious big cat in A Tiger Walks. Several decades later, it is to marvel at Ang Lee’s truly fantastic, beautifully crafted retelling of Yann Martel’s “near-impossible to film” novel of the same name (David Magee doing a superb job with the screenplay—knowing what to leave out is an art onto itself). Owing to huge advances in computer-generated images (not available in Disney’s glory years—the animals had to do their own acting without benefit of millions of pixels), all creatures great and small can easily interact with humans: apparently sharing the same space.

Newcomer Suraj Sharma cannot possibly have had a better first-time director than Lee. His performance is an absolute delight whether espousing his personal philosophy or cajoling four-legged Richard Parker into letting the sole survivor of an incredible shipwreck (with more than a passing reference to Noah’s Ark as Pi’s family’s zoo is on board) live in peace and harmony with the perpetually hungry Bengal beast of prey as the unlikely pair spend 227 days adrift on the high seas.

What sets the storytelling far apart from so many other good narratives is that which is never said but loudly heard for all of those not personally shackled by unstinting dogma or blind devotion to any sort of belief.

Early on, and much to the consternation of his spiritual leaders, we learn that Pi actively practises three religions: Hindu, Roman Catholic and Islam. By journey’s end it’s abundantly clear that none of those “greater powers” could/would “come to the rescue” of their devoted subject when needed most.

Countless others might also find that their lives can be saved from all manner of calamities if only they would have the courage to believe in themselves rather than the infinitely lazier method of outsourcing the heavy lifting to invisible deities of all stripes. JWR

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Director - Ang Lee
Screenplay - David Magee
Based on a novel by - Yann Martel
Cinematography - Claudio Miranda
Production Design - David Gropman
Editor - Tim Squyres
Original Music - Mychael Danna
Main Cast - Suraj Sharma
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