Life of Pi is fantastic,I can call it Ang Lee’s most beautiful film and definitely one of the most gorgeous films in the last decade,it is also one of the best films I’ve ever watched about religion and faith.Let’s break down this film to pieces to see how good it is.
Lee really knows how to choose the material source of his films,Sense and Sensibility,Brokeback Mountain,Lust & Caution are all brilliant books,so is Life of Pi.Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001,it’s about an Indian boy’s survivor story on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker,in a letter directly to Martel, Barack Obama described Life of Pi as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”.
The story of Life of Pi is obviously full of symbolism,just like what Pi tells the Canadian writer at the end the film,all the animals on the boat are symbols of actual human beings in that shipwreck incident,you can argue that the whole journey you see in the film is just the imagination of Pi,Pi went through something else and this is only the more beautiful version in his head,it’s his own way of reaching and feeling the existence of God.
Being a visually stunning film doesn’t mean it is a film that lacks depth,you know Lee’s movies never lack that,even in his most entertaining film Hulk,there is a Lee touch that makes it different than other comic book adapted films.
Life of Pi is a film about religion and faith,and discusses the eternal question from human being,is there God? In one of his idol Ingmar Bergman’s most famous film Virgin Spring,similar question has been discussed,and Bergman’s attitude is pretty pessimistic,God’s existence is in question.It’s interesting that several decades later,one of his most faithful followers Ang Lee,made a film that poses an opposite attitude towards God’s existence,it made us believe there is God,it’s so convincing that even for an atheist like me,firmly believes that there is God somewhere after watching the film,he is watching us,and when we are lost,he will point a way to guide us.
Faith and religion goes hand in hand,Pi is a young boy who follows many religions and are curious about all of them.At the end of the film,he learns that no matter what religion you follow,there is only one God,he is in your heart,that’s your own faith.It’s a point I liked a lot in the story because it makes the story universal to people of all religions.
The Characters and Performances
The name of the film is life of pi,so let’s talk about him first.Like his name,Pi is an ordinary boy who is curious about the outside world and greedily absorb everything he finds interesting.As the journey starts,he gradually learns how to be rational,and let go of everything instead of taking in everything blindly.He has a tiger in his heart,that’s the wild side of him.In the end,the reason he cried so hard when the tiger walks into the woods is because he comes back to the society and is finally tamed.
The actor of pi,Suraj Sharma,was chosen among 3000 candidates by Ang Lee,and what a wise choice it is! It reminds me of his casting of Tang Wei in Lust & Caution,whose situation is very similar to Suraj Sharma,never acted in any films,and astonished us with a brilliant performance.Most of the time during the shooting,he has to act and react to blue screens,that is quite a challenge for a 17-year old non-professional actor,apparently he has the talent of pulling it off.
Pi’s father is another fascinating character in the story,he does everything a father should do,that is to teach what a tough world we are living in and how to adapt to it.He inspires Pi to learn more reasoning,shows him how dangerous a tiger can be,and the most important,teaches him the importance of faith.
It is the first time I feel animals has equal status of human being,and it’s because the author gives the tiger a name and gives it emotion just like human beings.I actually can’t tell when the tiger is real and when it’s CGI.No matter what,if Oscar changed their rules that only humans can receive performance award,the tiger should win something next year!
Ok,so let’s talk about the visuals of Life of Pi that created so many fuzzes since its premiere in NYFF.I watched it in 3D IMAX format,but the 3D effect is not as good as they called “the best 3D films ever”,there are some parts that brings the real 3D experience,like the tiger jumps out of the cabin and the flying fishes scene,the other parts,I didn’t feel anything spectacular.
Great 3D or average 3D,Ang Lee’s team did create a fantasy world that is as good as the Pandora planet in James Cameron’s Avatar,it’s gorgeous and convincing.Especially those night scenes on the ocean,it makes you sigh how great nature is and how small we human beings are.The island is as good as you can imagine,the whole ecosystem is fantastic,I believe they created the exact world those book fans have envisioned.
As I said above,the CGI of Life of Pi is so good that you can hardly tell where they used it.You believe everything you see and you totally forget it’s a fantasy film because you are so absorbed in the story when you watch it.
As a fan of Ang Lee,I always found his movies universal,because he knows both Western and Oriental culture so well that he can manage both in the same film in a perfect way.I feel the same with Life of Pi,it discusses religions which I’m not very familiar with but I can still identify with it.
This is probably the most difficult film Ang Lee has ever done,most of the time,the setting of the film is only a boat,a boy and a tiger,nothing else.It reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s war thriller Lifeboat,in which the story also takes place on a boat,but there are more people on that boat! On this boat there is only a boy and a tiger,but you can still enjoy the story and not get bored.
Life of Pi shows us a new dimension of Ang Lee,it shows us that Ang Lee can not only tell a good story,but also tell it in such a beautiful way.This is his first 3D and fantasy film,and he manages it so well,which leads more expectations of his future films.
All in all,Life of Pi is one hell of a cinematic experience you will not have too often,so hurry up and watch it in 3D IMAX! Thanks to my wife Doris for giving me the inspirations of writing this review! If you have seen this film,let me know your thoughts in the comments!