Eleven years ago I read and relished Yann Martel’s irresistible, allegorical “Life of Pi”; many pivotal books gradually sink into the vast recesses of one’s mind, titles fade, but in this instance Pi’s journey sunk its literary teeth into a comfortable corner of my memory; took up permanent residence, and in gratitude to Ang Lee’s profoundly beautiful, visual production, a substantive, realistic vibrancy emerges as the tale unfolds.
“Life of Pi” is a technological jewel: impeccable, magical cinematography (Claudio Miranda); 3-D intensely engaging, the viewer is embraced by nature’s ferocity and enchantment. Underwater and celestial sequences, positively pregnant with the wizardry of man’s imagination and skill.
The novel resonated as a metaphorical journey, each animal an anthropomorphic example of the human condition; every obstacle bested, resulting in one more sunrise, sunset; addressing why some thrive while others languish. At the powerful core was the mystical, metaphysical belief in a higher being, and Pi’s acceptance of three primary religions: Hinduism, Catholicism and Islam; all protected him from demoralization, cloaked him in hope for 227 days; ship-wrecked in the Pacific Ocean; water and its curative, cleansing attributes play a key role in these diverse faiths and purge Pi of any incidentals, illusions as to himself and his insignificance when confronted with the daunting, unrelenting magnitude of nature. His sole companion, “Richard Parker”, a glorious, wild Bengal tiger; Pi’s nemesis to be trained, fed; a reason to fight the inevitability of death.
Suraj Sharma is genuine, refreshing, riveting, as “Pi” (shortened from, “Piscine Molitor” a swimming pool in Paris); at sixteen he is cauterized from all he knows: family, country, stability; levity, anguish, enlightenment inform his characterization. “Richard Parker”, mistakenly named after his captor, is a metaphor for tackling one’s eminent fears; Nietzsche thought that what does not fell us, fortifies our resolve. From the onset we know that Pi survives; the narrative is spun by the adult “ Pi” (pure, arresting portrayal by Irrfan Khan) who tells his remarkable story to an inquisitive writer ( Rafe Spall).
Life is about choices and in conclusion “Life of Pi” leaves the choice to the reader/viewer. Herein, lies the greatness of this immaculately wonderful book and film.