As usual, I'm late to the party in seeing Ang Lee's wondrous film, "Life of Pi." But I saw it last night and frankly it blew me away. I watched the Academy Awards presentations, of course, and saw the film clips from this movie and the other nominees. I remember they included two scenes, the whale jumping over the lifeboat on a star-filled night when the sea was phosphorescent, and also the scene of the zoo animals breaking their tethers under water. Though the scenes were beautiful and intriguing, they did not prepare me for the scope of this film.
"Life of Pi" is taken from a novel by Yann Martel, published originally in 2001. Guess what I used my one-click last night to order from Amazon? After seeing the movie, I want to read the book.
The movie is told as a flashback. A writer is visiting an Indian professor at his home in Canada. The writer has been sent to him by a mutual friend. The friend told the author that the professor had an exciting tale to tell. After polite conversation and a vegetarian lunch, the professor begins the tale of his youth.
Pi's father owned a zoo. People loved to come to the beautiful grounds to visit the animals, of which there was a wide variety. Pi grows to be a teen-ager in the early moments of the tale. Along the way, he studies Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, deciding to practice all three. His father does not understand this and berates his youngest son. Pi also has developed a relationship with the adult Bengal tiger in the zoo.
The father decides in a very brutal way to show Pi that the tiger has no soul and is NOT his friend. That was one of the scenes I could not watch.
Pi studies the drums and becomes a musician, playing for dance students. He falls in love with one of the young dancers.
His father announces one night that he has been offered a job in Canada. He plans to sell the animals to zoos in North America. The whole family will accompany them on the freighter taking the animals across the sea. Pi does not want to leave India, lose the animals, or leave his love. But he has no choice.
The freighter begins to sink out to sea. Pi makes it to the one lifeboat that gets launched, along with several of the animals. When the boat goes down, Pi realizes his entire family is gone.
I won't talk about the fate of the rest of the animals. There was another scene I did not watch.
At any rate, Pi is left alone with the tiger. He begins a spiritual quest which teaches him life lessons as well as knowledge of his own abilities.
During the many days he and the tiger are shipwrecked, drifting on the sea, he experiences incredible wonders - such as scenes of flying fish, the whale jumping over the boat, a sky painted in navy and deep rose at sunset, rain when both Pi and the tiger are dying of thirst, star-filled night skies in which Pi finds comfort, a floating island of seaweed filled unexpectedly with life and death, visions of the lost animals swimming underwater, a raging thunderstorm in which Pi finds God, and finally the miracle of waking on a beach.
I'm not going to spoil the film for you by revealing the rest of the story. You already know he survived because it's his story to tell...
This is a stunningly beautiful film, both visually and spiritually. It is certainly Ang Lee's masterpiece to date. I know it did not win Best Picture at the Oscars, but it won almost everything else for it's quality of production. Everything melds together, the visuals, the actors, the music, the colors - I could go on and on. It is a complete lyrical vision from a team of very talented artists.
Don't miss this film. It is truly a work of art, a one-of-a-kind collaboration.
Until next time, read, watch, listen, and enjoy.