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Review: "Life of Pi "

2012-11-30 10:47:45        Chinese Films

"Life of Pi" post [photo:]

The adventure drama film "Life of Pi" is now available in Chinese cinemas. It is based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name and directed by Ang Lee. The ocean scenes inside the film were shot in a giant wave tank built inside an abandoned airport in Taiwan. For more details, here is our movie reviewer Laiming.


"Life of Pi" is the life of humankind. The mathematical constant represents men's attempt to understand the world through logic and reason, but the number itself is irrational and infinite – an apt symbol of human spirituality. About a decade ago, French Canadian writer Yann Martel impressed the world with this remarkable insight, yet it was only 10 years later that his powerful text has been translated into a spectacular format by an equally sensitive, spiritual and talented film director none other than Ang Lee.

"Life of Pi" is a fantasy adventure story. Indian boy Pi Patel worships three religions, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, although his contemporary-minded father would rather he believe in science. On a freighter across the Pacific Ocean to Canada, Pi loses his family and the entire crew in a storm and is the only human survivor on a lifeboat along with an injured zebra, a mother orangutan, a spotted hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Before long, the number of survivors is reduced to only Pi and Richard Parker. The boy and the tiger drift on the vastness of the Pacific for 227 days before reaching the point of rescue. According to Pi, it is his fear of the beast that has kept him alive.

However, it isn't until almost the end the movie when the story takes a sharp turn and another version of the plot is served, perhaps a more authentic account of such an incredible survival tale. The new narrative removes, or shall we say explains, all the fantastic images of the last 60 minutes and produces a darker interpretation of humanity. The gloomy realization lasts only briefly before it is shoved under the carpet of Ang Lee's positive worldview. The boy embarked on his journey with an open mind for spiritual enlightenment, but while sailing on the vast and precarious ocean of life's uncertainties, he was forced to coexist with an animal. Yet in the end, he is able to tame the beast and find salvation, both physically and spiritually.

Despite the constant reference to religion, "'Life of Pi" tells one rather simple story. It is exactly such simplicity that poses a challenge for moviemakers hoping to adapt it. Well, of course, there is also the difficulty of keeping a tiger and an actor safely in the coziness of a lifeboat. That's why it took Fox 10 years to find the right person, while in the meantime wait for CGI technology to mature. Taiwan-born director Ang Lee, with his patience and interest in human spirituality, unfettered imagination and quick mastery of 3-D filming techniques, proved to be the perfect candidate.

Special attention must be given to lead actor Suraj Sharma who was able to release the full charge of his emotions into a vacuum, and to cinematographer Claudio Miranda who transformed the imaginations of Yann Martel and Ang Lee into a dazzling spectacle.

"Life of Pi" is a perfect combination of commercial ambition and spiritual aspiration. On a scale from one to ten, I think it deserves an 8.

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