I am a big fan of the Booker Prize winning novel as Yann Martel manages to weave humour, shock, wonder, despair, hope and fear into a huge novel of adventure and discovery. His writing provides you with vivid images of what Pi sees and I was worried that as with many films, what would be translated on screen would not be my interpretation. But Ang Lee does a wonderful job and obviously loves and understands the novel inside out. Apart from a couple of moments, it is pretty much identical and perfectly captures Pi’s changing emotions as he spends hundreds of days at sea.
The zoo scenes at the beginning of the film are beautiful and there is some stunning scenery of India as Pi grows up. The laughs come as he attempts to follow three different religions and does not see why he should choose just one, but his faith will save his life in later events. After an idyllic life growing up in his parents’ zoo, his father drops the bombshell that the family are selling all the animals and moving to Canada. They will all travel together across the ocean on a huge ship. The ship never makes it and Pi finds himself the only survivor on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orang-utan and a tiger called Richard Parker for company.
The film thoroughly deserves its many award nominations for Cinematography and Production Design, with Pi’s days at sea a stunning mix of intense storms and beautiful orange and pink skies, plus of course the sea-life he encounters with flying fish, dolphins and a huge whale making dramatic entrances. The only downside, was that seeing this film in 3D did make me feel a little seasick and as so much of the film is set at sea, there is no escape from that queasy feeling.
The CGI character of Richard Parker is stunning to watch and his emotions are captured perfectly from feeling seasick, being a fierce predator, wanting to escape the boat and eventually becoming so weak that Pi can eventually stroke him. Suraj Sharma is brilliant in his debut role and is able to hold the film on his own as the only actor on screen for a large part of the film. The duo’s stop at a strange island inhabited by thousands of meerkats provides some comic relief, but does look a little too 'CGI’d' and is very brief compared with the book. It is also not as chilling as the novel when Pi discovers the truth about the lush island.
While the film has been made for a family audience and is not as gruesome at the book, Pi’s interview with the men from an insurance company at the end still packs an emotional punch and I found the final scene very moving. Overall, this is possibly one of the best novel to film adaptations I have seen, and while I may not necessarily watch it again, I really enjoyed sharing in the adventure with Pi and Richard Parker.
Trailer for Life of Pi:
One of my favoruite scenes, which is exactly like the book!