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Life of Pi’: Seeing is believing

Maddie Daly | Tuesday, November 27, 2012

While reading a book full of shipwrecks, tigers, carnivorous islands and cannibalism, I had trouble imagining such topics, much less picturing them on a movie set. However, Ang Lee managed to direct the impossible plotline of this exaggerated, amazing story in his film version of Yann Martel’s novel “Life of Pi.” Despite the struggles Lee undoubtedly faced when filming this movie, he stuck to the plot almost perfectly, which keeps the faithful readers like myself quite pleased. Sure, Lee took the liberty to add a love interest for the main character Pi, but, hey, I don’t think anyone will complain about the adorable, short-lived teen romance.

Both the book and film are framed with present-day Pi recounting his unbelievable survival story to a fatigued author looking for inspiration, placing the majority of the plot in a sort of flashback-memory sequence. Elementary-school-aged Pi establishes himself as an extremely smart, ostracized student with an attitude, insisting on being called by his self-proclaimed nickname “Pi” over his birth-given, yet ridiculed, name Piscine (French for “pool”). Although the film required four different actors to play the part of Pi, it is still able to consistently characterize him as curious, quiet, intelligent and lonely. He proceeds to stand out as he commits himself to three religions simultaneously, drawing concern from his father. However, his father is far from normal himself, owning a zoo holding hundreds of animals right in his backyard. The film beautifully portrays the Indian landscape and pans through the colorful zoo with light, fairy-like music tinkling in the background.

Just a few minutes later, I couldn’t help but cover my eyes while watching the super-realistic shipwreck that begins the major plotline. The scene depicts panicked people jumping into the black water, clinging onto lifeboats and crying for family members. I’m positive I would have had to take off my 3-D glasses if I had opted for the IMAX version because of the scene’s terrifying special effects. I’m pretty sure I will never go on a cruise in my life because of this “Titanic”-like scene.

Even scarier is the next sequence of events that lead to Pi’s separation from his entire (human) family and stuck on a lifeboat with four of his father’s zoo animals: a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a 500-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The rest of the movie goes through Pi’s incredible survival story on this ten-foot lifeboat with a hungry tiger (the other three animals were Richard Parker’s breakfast, lunch and dinner the first day). Lee made this seemingly-boring plotline of a single boy in the open sea for months on end look extremely interesting, beautiful and even a bit funny at times. Even though most of the footage between Pi and Richard Parker on the ocean was computer-animated, their interactions were both realistic and believable.

The movie’s conclusion throws the audience for a spin, and will lead you to question the reality of the entire story you just witnessed. The movie has spectacular special effects, an engaging story line and is sure to please people who were fans of the book. Overall, “Life of Pi” is not to be missed.