Life Of Pi (by Yann Martel) is one of those books that I’ve heard about endlessly, though I’ve never known what it was about. I asked a friend, when she finished reading it, what the plot was and she looked sheepish and muttered something about a boat and a tiger and a philosophical journey.
Philosophical journey, eh? thought I. AVOID.
However, having seen countless trailers for Ang Lee’s adaptation – showing tempting blue waters, luscious jungles and (most enticingly of all) a tiger – I decided to give it a go.
In a nutshell, the story is about Pi (named after his uncle’s favourite piscine in Paris, duh), a 16-year-old boy whose family are forced to move their zoo from Pondicherry, India, to Canada. However, the freight liner that they are travelling on is caught in a hideous storm. Pi is the only human survivor; of the animals, a zebra, hyena, organutan and tiger survive. By the end of the first half hour, the zebra, hyena and orangutan have all died, leaving just Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger (yes, the tiger’s called Richard Parker – all owing to some unfortunate admin mix-up when he was delivered to the zoo. Obv.).
Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) and Richard Parker are forced to cling to a lifeboat so as to survive, and have to get used to being each other’s everything. Pi’s life has effectively been swept away by the storm, and the audience is treated to two hours of will-they-or-won’t-they-survive tension, interspersed with majestic shots (the 3d effects are breath-taking) of the ocean.
The problem with this kind of insular film, where it centres on one character and their thoughts/feelings, is that it can become dull. Fortunately, Life Of Pi manages to dodge being too tedious – killer whales and, er, an island of meerkats keep things interesting – but there were moments where I did kind of wish that Richard Parker would just get it over with and eat Pi, putting us all out of our misery. Controversial, I know.
The film was all well and good up until the very ending. I won’t say too much but the film’s conclusion can be summed up as ‘…but was it all just a dream?’ It’s frustrating: we’ve sat through two and a half hours of ocean shots and comedy tiger moments, and the whole thing has potential to have been a fantasy. Disappointing: I rather liked the idea of the meerkat island.
In cinemas now