Life of Pi (2013)

I need not have worried. Life of Pi the movie was visually spectacular – check; sweeping and majestic – check; densely wove themes of religion, love, identity, and the nature of humanity, story and truth – check; depicted passage of time, minutely detailed how to survive at sea and journeyed into fantastic worlds – check.

Even more happily, it did all this neatly within the allotted two hours.

I was amazed by the skill of this storytelling. I was so excited I spent most of the time alternately shrinking back in my chair or almost jumping out of it. The rest of the time I spent silently leaking tears.

I loved this movie so much that I sat there throughout all the ads, all the previews and all the movie, despite the coffee AND the diet coke (I went hungover. I needed both. Don’t judge me). After a while I forgot that I even had a body that needed to pee. I was just spellbound.

The CG and the cinematography were lovingly done, and that tiger was damned impressive.

The two small factors – don’t want to ruin any surprises so will mention only briefly – that I noticed differed significantly from the book were the lack of graphic physical violence and blood-and-bone savagery, and the absence of a plot point in its latter half.

These, really, concerned me not a jot. Go for it. Go for the PG audience. The story deserves the widest audience possible, and our imaginations can fill in the rest.

I am glad about how Ang Lee chose to portray the story Pi tells in hospital towards the end, with an unerring focus on Pi’s face as he tells a story that increases in horror and intensity as it unfolds.

At the end, I even had a cathartic “aha!” moment, in which one line – “and so it is with God” – finally made sense to me. It closed the aching little wound Pi’s horrible story had opened up and filled me with the peace of understanding and acceptance.

Well, it did!

I loved this movie, and I hope Lee wins his Best Director and Best Picture Oscars.

Life of Pi (Yann Martel, 2001)

The film version of Life of Pi has now been released.

I read this (Man Booker Prize-winning) novel when it was first published in 2001, but remembered loving it so much – and had my interest so piqued by the technicolour preview of the movie – that I felt it necessary to be have all my mental ducks in a row and refresh my memory.

Of course, now it turns out the novel is just as impressive as I remember, this may make the film proportionately more disappointing.

It promises to be visually spectacular; sweeping and majestic, as it should. But densely woven themes of religion, love, identity, and the nature of humanity, story and truth?

How can these be communicated in a movie that must devote equal attention to giving a sense of achingly long passages of time, minutely detailed accounts of survival at sea and journeys into fantastic worlds?

I am almost sure a film will not (cannot) do this story justice within a couple of hours. This is one of those stories that can be trimmed without suffering a fatal loss of lifeblood. And really, who wants to see a movie that’s much longer than a couple of hours?

(Side note: went to see Les Miserables on the weekend, and by golly Tom Hooper did a pretty good job of it. But the length, though necessary and justified, is punishing. Whose bladder is up to such a task?)

To return to the point, Life of Pi is another of those books that leaves you staring into space, blinking, your brain working furiously, for several minutes – if not several days – after you turn the final page.

Immediately my mind had returned to reality, I hungered to watch the movie, no matter how inadequate it may prove to be. I turned to, which reports that 50,000 people or have combined to rate it, on average, 8.3 (spot price).

Thus encouraged, I looked up what Roger Ebert had to say and was amazed to see praise heaped upon the film. He calls it a “miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery … [a book] many readers must have assumed was unfilmable.”

He calls it one of the best of the year.