Sunday, February 3, 2013

Life of Pi


A shipwreck en route to Winnipeg leaves Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On a life boat. With an injured zebra. A vicious hyena. A female orangutan. And a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Later on, the hyena ends the zebra's suffering and kills the orangutan next. Pi is next in line, if not for the intervention of Richard Parker, attacking the hyena and throwing it off-board. The remaining days are characterized by the issues of survival and cohabitation, thunderstorms, a carnivorous island, and never ending sea sickness. Between man and beast, which is more fit to survive? Or will they both succumb to the hopelessness represented by the vast ocean they are floating on?

The book is amazing in that it is full of flashbacks and gives you a lot of insight regarding a plethora of themes ranging from religion all the way down to zookeeping. Besides, life stranded on a life boat for more than 200 days could get really monotonous, and those anecdotes in between make everything tolerable. The movie operates in the same way, giving occasional glimpses of the past aimed at presenting a more coherent narration of the story as a whole.

The advantage of a movie is that it could visually represent what your imagination takes care of when reading literature. Ang Lee does a fantastic job with his utilization of vivid imagery that is just aesthetically pleasing, in particular those that tend to symbolize the universe. The way he turns the otherwise boring surface of the ocean into palettes of different hues is simply impressive that they are so cathartic to look at. Full of imagination and pleasing to the eyes, what this film adaptation of Life of Pi achieves in terms of cinematography and CGI would make you want to think that getting stranded in a seemingly endless ocean is not so bad at all. Or maybe not.

The very same CGI makes you experience what it is like to get hopelessly stuck at sea. Sure, there are some quirky movements here and there that might be perceived as a bit unnatural, but then, how are you to know for sure unless you have had firsthand experience? The movie is no Titanic but the visals would suffice to at least give you an idea on how these disasters really play out.

Beautiful visuals aside, what catches your attention regardless if you are reading the book or watching the movie is the subliminal message. In the end, Pi presents another version of the story that is more realistic but less likely to get more sympathy. Neither version explains why the ship sank in the first place, and it is also quite difficult to deduce which version is true and which one is made up. But then you realize after all that the veracity of either account is out of the question. Regardless if life gives you the luxury of closure or not, everybody eventually moves on. That is the only viable choice.

In Pi's case, his main issue after getting rescued is his separation from Richard Parker, and how the feline does not even look back at him as it stops before running towards the jungle. Taking into consideration the implied symbolism of Richard Parker as Pi's vicious self, one could say that he wanted an explanation on how that side of him emerged during those trying times in the middle of the Pacific. He wanted to understand. He wanted closure. But the tiger does not even look back, but instead heads directly to the jungle where it truly belongs, perhaps to rebuild its life. Life could be that bitchy and not everything will be explained. You will not always have the option for closure. It is difficult, but it is the sad truth. We move on, and that is just about it.

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