When I described the book as extraordinary, I thought that there would be no way that the movie could translate the same level of magic to the big screen even if it faithfully adapted each element to the film. What I hadn’t counted on was that the movie had some things going for it that the book did not. In this case I would call my enjoyment of both mediums pretty even. The book was extraordinary, but Ang Lee’s film version was nothing short of a magnificent piece of cinema.
Life of Pi is based on the novel of the same name written by Yann Martel. It tells the story of Piscine Molitor Patel, so named after a public pool in France, a favorite place of his father’s best friend whom he fondly calls Mamaji or uncle. The film briefly accounts Pi’s early years, how he changed his name to take after the mathematical figure, in bits in pieces, as he accounts his experiences for the benefit of a young Canadian writer who is looking for an extraordinary story to write about. It is also to this writer that he shares his survival story which involves 227 days lost at sea in the company of an adult Bengal tiger by the name of Richard Parker.
I loved the book. Of this, there was no doubt but I also liked the movie. After seeing it, I have a finer appreciation of India and its culture. I would especially like to visit the town of Ponchiderry, the place in which Pi’s story began. While the Ponchiderry zoo was more spacious and less colorful than I had originally imagined, it nonetheless provided the audience with a visual feast and and entertaining opening billboard.
While Pi (Suraj Sharma) held his own in his big Hollywood debut, it was the tiger who played Richard Parker who stole the show. The beast was equal parts regal (when the occasion called for it) and adorable, when he shows his vulnerabilities. I loved Richard Parker. Even when he snarled a lot, and was cranky for most of the movie, he reminded me still of my own cats in his mannerisms and general indifference. The kids in the cinema liked him too. He was such a big personality. I have no doubt that Richard Parker will soon be a popular name among domestic cats in the weeks to follow.
The cinematography for this movie was awesome from start to finish, most especially during the night when tiger and boy were lost at sea. The colors surrounding the small lifeboat, accentuated by the darkness of the sky and the sparkling of the stars was amazing to behold. Even if it was done by special effects, credit should still be given where its due. It was beautiful to watch, and I for one, was captivated.
Kudos also to the animal trainers. There were a lot of species in this movie and the shoot must have been a riot. I would have enjoyed being there to see how it went down.
There was a slight lag in the pace towards the end but this was mainly because this was the same direction that the book took so it wasn’t such a big deal. The minor tweaks that the filmmakers did to the book in its movie adaptation were also good and served to improve the cinematic value of the feature.
All in all, the book for me was more moving, mainly because it was more descriptive. The movie, on the other hand, focused most of its power to sell the survival part, which was also touching, in its own way. Kudos to the filmmakers for still integrating violent parts of the book to the movie, and presenting the sanitized version tastefully for the sake of young viewers. But this film’s biggest success is correctly sending out the emotions that the book evoked through its marvelous writing. This is a movie interpretation that not only sought to adapt a book into the big screen but went on to deliver its core message as well.