Review: Life of Pi (2012) Movie

January 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

~ by (coNZervative.wordpress.com)

Went and saw this last night with eldest son.  It was fantastic. I recommend 3D as this film is very colourful and cinematic. You will want to enjoy its epic sweep in 3D.  I read the book a few years ago, and recommend you do that too. This is a great 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 – there’s that tiger again) and David Magee (screenplay) (Finding Neverland) pulled off an amazing job.

Plot: Indian family of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, sells up their zoo on land they rent and decide to move to Canada; sell the animals in North America and build a new life. Ship is lost at sea, Pi survives with a few animals in a life boat and raft, the final being a large vicious Bengal Tiger (called Richard Parker). Pi survives (just) for 277 days on a raft tied to the lifeboat by a rope in which the tiger is stranded. That’s all I’ll say.

French (now Russian) actor Gerard Depardieu is the cook on the ship, but the others are not known.  Pi is brilliantly played by a series of various aged Pi.s  His name is really Piscine Molitor (a French swimming pool) or “Pissing” as his schoolmates call him, thus later “Pi” to avoid bullying. This is all well-explained in the movie.

I love the opening sequence where the movie moves in slowly, capturing the magic and wonder of the animal kingdom created by God.  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 tiger is completely real all the time.

The movie portrays the realities of this implausible scenario with brilliant detail, to the point you can imagine it totally happening (how to get water to the tiger; what will it eat? etc). There were no cringe moments.

The book and film have one of the best endings ever, on a par with Sixth Sense (aka I See Dead People).  Go and see it to find out, no spoiler here.

The characters are strong, including the tiger, and I liked the humans at the beginning, especially the uncle with the expanded chest and the transparent luxuriousness of the French swimming pool.

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 and live in know-it-all science castles with trite factual answers to everything, 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. “Which story do you prefer?”  “The ship sinks and I lose my family in both, so which is better?”  ”What do you see Richard Parker? Tell me. Speak to me!”.

I get that “story” is intended to be wonderful and used to portray emotions, mysteries, nuances that help us explain, see and wonder. This is what poetry, music and art are all about. The film seeks to explain to us that the meanings 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 is 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.

There is just more to life and the universe than 1+1=2.  You could say 1+1 = phosphorescent plankton (the smallest creature in the sea feeding the largest mammal ever known). 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.

Life of Pi was written by Yann Martel and first published in 2001, after suffering several publisher rejections (like Harry Potter).  It was a runaway success and has won many awards.  Now the film adaptation has collected some gongs too.

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14 Responses to “Review: Life of Pi (2012) Movie”

  1. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    A different Life of Pie

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  2. Carlos (683 comments) says:

    This is the first movie review I’ve ever read where I’ve felt preached at.

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  3. Griff (7,819 comments) says:

    I was stuck on a boat for months with this book in my library along with many others on the must read 100 list.
    I found it uninteresting and did not bother to read it completely.
    In its genre I find the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    Far more of a interesting read and hope in the future a good screen adaptation surfaces.
    It may even tempt me into a theater . I have avoided movies based on books since seeing the screen adaptation of the girl with a dragon tattoo trilogy was butchered by Hollywood.

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  4. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    Dime would rather set himself on fire than sit through this garbage.

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  5. Manolo (13,840 comments) says:

    Pass.
    This is much, much better: http://www.wcl.govt.nz/easyfind/?q=history%20of%20pi

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  6. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    “French (now Russian) actor Gerard Depardieu is the cook on the ship, ”

    Have you seen the size of this guy now ! Talk about Life of Pie…we know who ate them all..fat bastard

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  7. thedavincimode (6,803 comments) says:

    laj

    For real. The increasingly deranged Depardieu looks like he’s just eaten an elephant. But perhaps not so deranged in stuffing off to Russia and a flat 13% tax rate. Russia might be a top option if the lunatic melons slide into home plate with the nasty party.

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  8. SalParadise (54 comments) says:

    DPF I can’t believe you put this up. This is an absolutely terrible review.

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  9. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    Carlos (570): “…This is the first movie review I’ve ever read where I’ve felt preached at.”

    The top quotes from the film decided by “Rotten Tomatoes.” I think the film is pretty much preaching something, doncha think?

    . Pi: I surrender [to you God]. What more do you want?

    . Adult Pi Patel: I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.

    . Writer: [reading off the report] Mr. Patel’s is an astounding story, courage and endurance unparalleled in the history of ship-wrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.

    . Adult Pi Patel: So which story do you prefer?
    . Writer: The one with the tiger. That’s the better story.
    . Adult Pi Patel: Thank you. And so it goes with God.
    . Writer: [smiles] It’s an amazing story.

    . Adult Pi Patel: Faith is a house with many rooms.
    . Writer: But no room for doubt?
    . Adult Pi Patel: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.

    . Pi: God, thank you for giving me my life. I am ready now.

    . Pi Patel: [on killing the fish] Thank you Lord Vishnu. Thank you for coming in the form of fish and saving our lives.

    . Pi Patel: I can eat biscuits, but God made tigers carnivorous, so I must learn to catch fish. If don’t, I’m afraid his last meal would be a skinny vegetarian boy.

    . Adult Pi Patel: [after describing what the priest in the Church told him about Jesus] That made no sense.

    . Pi: What do you see Richard Parker? Tell me what do you see [then has a vision of what tiger is seeing].

    . Adult Pi Patel: Hunger can change everything you thought you knew yourself!

    . Santosh Patel: You think tiger is your friend, he is an animal, not a playmate.
    . Pi Patel: Animals have souls… I have seen it in their eyes.

    . Pi: Above all… it is important not to lose hope.

    . Pi’s Father: We are going to Canada, North America.
    . Pi: But Columbus was looking for India.

    . Pi: Thank you, Vishnu, for introducing me to Christ.

    . Pi: If every unfolding we experience takes us further along in life, then, we are truly experiencing what life is offering…

    . Adult Pi Patel: Religion is a house with many rooms.
    . Writer: But with no room for doubt?
    . Adult Pi Patel: Oh yes, room on every floor.
    . Adult Pi Patel: And so it is by God.

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  10. chiz (1,145 comments) says:

    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 and live in know-it-all science castles with trite factual answers to everything, would benefit from seeing this great film.

    The film looks like a visual treat, and if I had the money I might have gone to see this, but this arrogant review has put me off. The wikipedia reveals – Spoiler alert – that the story isn’t true, and that Pi was in a lifeboat with his mother and a sailor and the cook who kills the sailor and his mother:

    Pi asks which of the two stories they prefer. Since the officials cannot prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck, they choose the story with the animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God”.

    So there’s the true story, and then there’s the emotionally appealing story, and the officials go with the appealing story rather than the truth. An apt metaphor for religion in other words.

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  11. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    Chiz, you completely miss the point of this movie (go see it first before spoiling it for others. Duffis). The story is true, the movie is about what is “true” and how stories un-package what is real for humans. The Japanese report casts doubt on what actually happened either-way; it is left ambiguous.

    There is a tiger in the boat.

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  12. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    Chiz, in “A Beautiful MInd” Russell Crowe is crazy and Ed Harris isn’t real (yet he is). In Stephen King’s “It” there is no clown in the drain, yet there is. Oh shoot, Iife is too complicated, back to my periodic table (where everything is safe).

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  13. chiz (1,145 comments) says:

    So, the story is true, but the Japanese report casts doubt on this, and, as you admit, it is left ambiguous, meaning that we don’t in fact know that the story is true.

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  14. Carlos (683 comments) says:

    @ iMP It was more this condescending attitude that made the review come across as preachy.

    “Those who mock religion and live in know-it-all science castles with trite factual answers to everything, would benefit from seeing this great film.”

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