‘Life of Pi’ review


Photo from www.imdb.com

Priyanka Hardikar, Staff Writer

     A young man stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean faced an entirely unusual predicament when a tiger decided to join his strain for survival.

     The film “Life of Pi” stayed true to Yann Martel’s phenomenal novel of the same name. The main character, Pi, short for Piscine, was portrayed by three actors for each of the three stages of his life. The casting of these characters was very impressive, as each actor significantly resembled the others in appearance as well as in personality.

     The movie begins in present time, with a middle-aged Pi conversing with a novelist. Pi’s uncle sent the novelist, who is in search of stories, to Pi. Pi begins to tell his life story, slowly climaxing to the shipwreck, when his story really begins. Most of the movie consists of flashbacks that center around Pi’s relationship with the tiger and how both refused to succumb to death.

    Back in Pondicherry, India, Pi’s father owned a zoo, which was the foundation for Pi’s love for animals. When Pi’s father made the final decision to journey to Canada and sell his animals there, all of them make the voyage on the same ship. Pi frees the animals during the shipwreck. He wakes up on a boat with a vicious hyena, passive zebra and friendly orangutan. The scene with the three animals is captured quickly, but with an unforgettable intensity. The audience is horror-struck by how far the hyena is willing to go to defeat his enemies. It is one of the most shocking and callous scenes of the film.

     When the tiger, Richard Parker, is first introduced, he displays a great amount of strength and fierceness, but as the movie evolves, the audience begins to see him the way Pi does. They start to see the kindness behind the tiger’s piercing gray eyes – the beginning of something just short of friendship. Pi identifies his fear for Richard Parker and his duty to feed him as his incentive for survival.

     Endless love and loyalty for animals burdens Pi when he is forced to kill for survival. The first time he kills a fish is his first internal conflict – he never thought of himself as an animal slaughterer. His journey in the ocean evolves with his emotional journey. He redefines who he really is and essentially strengthens the person he thought he was. Pi is a dynamic character; he makes the movie very unpredictable because he is consistently at a risk of dying. Suraj Sharma, the teenage actor who plays Pi, brings the movie alive with his compelling portrayal. His expressions and reactions to the tragic events in his life set him apart and leave a lasting impression on the audience. The haunting image of the horror in his eyes when he discovers that the ship is sinking can never fade away. Pi has the maturity of an adult, yet the innocence of a child that quickly grabs the attention of families with a young boy like him. 

     While he is recovering in the hospital from his traumatic experience, Pi is visited by the two men who designed the ship. He passionately recounts his experience with the tiger, but when they fail to believe his story, he replaces the tiger, orangutan, hyena and zebra with real people and fabricates a new story. Depending on the audience’s interpretation of the movie, they are given the freedom to openly wrap up the story in their own way.  Pi allows the audience to expand on their imagination, to ponder both stories and eventually settle with the story that they consider the most believable or brilliant.

     The movie successfully replicates the inexplicable beauty of nature. The picturesque scenery of the ocean is breathtaking, and it looks as if the sky has melted into the water. The reflection of the sky’s luminous colors in the water gives the impression that the sea goes on forever. The audience easily loses track of direction and dimension, and it’s almost impossible to identify where the ground is. It feels like the boat is peacefully floating in a famous painting. The sky’s radiance during the daytime represents hope and optimism. The music consistently complemented the events of the scene and changed according to the emotions Pi was feeling. Mychael Danna’s soundtrack was very touching. Most of the songs were made up of only instruments, and so powerful in setting the mood.

        “Life of Pi” is a thrilling movie with an extraordinary storyline that evokes fear, sadness, joy – every emotion but despondency. No matter how miserable Pi is, he never gives up or loses hope.  This teenage boy inspires never-ending persistence and faith in anyone who ever feels like he or she is trapped.