Sunday, November 25, 2012

Life of Pi

LIFE OF PI: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan.  Directed by Ang Lee (127 min.)

Life of Pi is easily one of the best films of the year, and it is one of the most beautiful and visually captivating films I have ever seen.  It is an age old story about many many things, most of which revolve around religion, finding God, and understanding the way humans seem to fit into the beauty of the world.  Beyond the story, however, is visual poetry at the hand of Lee, who has managed to create a universe for a young man to brave, all inside one lifeboat.

The story of Pi is told in the framework of the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrating his life story to an aimless young author (Rafe Spall).  His birth name is Piscine, but as elementary school bullies made his life miserable (they pronounce it "pissing") he decided to take maters into his own hands and change his name to Pi, the representation of the infinite mathematical number.  Pi grows into a well-adjusted teenager with a loving mother and stern but caring father.  The family owns a local zoo, but when Canada offers to buy these animals Pi's family packs up and heads to North America for work.  This all leads to the shipwreck, and to Pi finding himself stranded in the middle of the ocean with a ration of supplies and, of course, a Bengal Tiger.

This segment of the film is given so much care and attention by Lee, much more than I have given it here.  There is a great deal of patience in the early portions of the film which pay off as the story unfolds into the incredible.

The tiger's name is Richard Parker, and yes there is a reason for such a lavish and whimsical name.  The seamless use of CGI with the tiger goes practically unnoticed.  I understand there were real tigers used for certain shots n the film; I challenge anyone to point one out from the other.  This tiger in this world is very real, and very threatening to Pi as they fight the weather and the natural world to survive. This is no Disney story, and this tiger is never marginalized as a character in the film.  There are some touching moments between Pi and Richard Parker, but nothing cute or amusing for the sake of theatricality.  Everything feels authentic as Pi and Parker drift through the ocean for 221 days.

There will not be a more inspirational picture to come out this year, and dare I say again this is the most gorgeous movie I maybe have ever seen.  There are moments in here which left me in awe, like those scenes where the night sky and the ocean reflect seemingly one another and Pi's boat appears to be hovering in space.  Or those moments where we look up from the ocean floor, through the water to the sky.  It is difficult to describe, but it is magnificent how ever one might describe it.  Later in the film, Pi's boat finds a mysterious island formed almost entirely out of tree roots and vines, inhabited by meerkats and holding a darker secret.

Suraj Sharma plays Pi and is just as well balanced as the rest of the film, never getting too high or too low.  Life of Pi takes on some of the largest questions about faith, doubt, and who's God is right when all is said and done.  Pi's approach to religion is a fresh perspective and it shapes him before the adventure.  There is also a great deal of focus on human interaction with animals, and what makes us different from them.  All of these philosophical questions are raised and appropriately none are answered because, simply, there are no answers.  As it should be.  But make no mistake there are feelings, emotions, faith and love at the center of Life of Pi, one of the most wonderful films of 2012.