“Life of Pi” works as an ambitiously beautiful allegory about life and spirituality. Ang Lee bravely crafts this vision of Yann Martel’s best-selling fantastical book of the same title into a compelling piece of cinema. This meditative film’s reverence to its tricky and profound source material further impresses in clearly showing how much of a masterful filmmaker he is, especially for filming a seemingly “unfilmable” book.
This motion picture opus may not have the same impact for each person, but it remains as an intriguing and inspiring dramatic adventure for a wide range of audiences. It allows them to experience a thought-provoking concept of faith and self-discovery through varying levels of viewing. From its overwhelming philosophical ruminations to its resplendent images of fantastical creatures and realms, everything turns out satisfying in delivering a cinematic journey built upon big and complex ideas. And so, whether viewers dig into its personal and theological implications or they simply wallow into its audio-visual beauty, this film definitely has something to offer.
Considering how complicated it is to adapt such a long and substantially rich tale primarily geared toward the literary audience, Lee brilliantly utilizes every filmic tool to spin an epic yarn to his storytelling. This lavishly shot and superbly written piece spiritual search aptly voyages through the nautical unknown, to places where the human heart is willing to explore. On a cinematic standpoint, it works best as a visual experience more than an emotional one. Yet, this is not to say that its emotional facets are completely lacking.
As the narrative progresses, the tale evolves into an impeccably realized journey. At some point, this may leave some spectators behind, especially those who are used to the passing amusement of shallow, entertaining pictures. But those willing to navigate through the artistry behind Lee’s artistic vision and Martel’s core story can find themselves wandering around a land of awe-inspiring imagination. These may not be the places they intend to walk through, but such can make life-changing discernments for these people who are willing to check them out.
This transcendent work boasts the unusual marriage of story depth and technical grandeur. Its impressionistic canvas captures the harrowing realities and harsh beauty of the world in a riot of saturated colors and thematically rich imagination. The scenes never lose track of the fact that the film is a survival tale. At the same time, the stunning images radiate something emotionally and spiritually rewarding along the way. They evoke the mysteries of the universe that are beyond human comprehension and translate them into something “emotionally perceptible.”
Lee as a creative force in this production doesn’t only make it one of the finest eye candies in recent memory of blockbuster offerings, he also makes sure that it carries a real sting in its tail. Interestingly, he does this by making the film accessible and engrossing as a fantasy material brimming with wondrous, memorable images — without necessarily compromising the story.
The lush cinematography, abundant special effects, gorgeous production design, and majestic sound seamlessly create varying moments of wonder without losing storytelling substance. The film’s powerful framing and structure effectively reflect the main character’s emotional, physical, and mental struggles. The edge-of-your-seat parts offer convincing suspense dynamics. The breathtakingly intoxicating score captures the wild delights of the presentation. All the magical realism elements feel like a person’s collective imagination jaw-droppingly projected onto the screen. Moreover, the stunning camerawork illustrates how essential 3D can be used in a serious piece of filmmaking.
Although there are countless others, the CG creation of the tiger turns out the most worth-mentioning technical achievement of all for both the tiger’s look and acting performance. The rest of the CG and real-life actors, from the major to the minor characters, from the human to the animal characters, all significantly contribute to this visual feast as well.
The ultimate feat in this adult adventure masterpiece is how compelling and coherent it showcases “truth” in the middle of two story arcs. After experiencing the first story with Pi, people get rightfully set up to contemplate on the two versions of Pi’s tale. Soon, pondering on this leads viewers to the endless search for meaning and the human nature of seeking for the truth, or at least reaching an estimate of what is closest enough to the perceived truth.
The story suitably reconciles the world’s religions by relating it to the life of Pi. It shows how a specific religion can’t be a one-stop shop to truly understand God. It also shows how truth can become mixes of different stories with embellished parts. Moreover, it depicts human beings as naturally born storytellers and audiences willing to learn new and exciting stories. It further justifies how preferences on more palatable stories can help people survive their ordeals. Another aspect it examines is the circle of co-existence among living things, the relationship between people and animals and how this helps maintain the resilience of the human spirit, and how creatures, including humans, can possibly turn their backs on significant relationships without showing acknowledgment or appreciation.
“Life of Pi” is a pleasantly satisfying parable about strength, faith, and survival. Extraordinary in its ambition and admirable in its execution, this groundbreaking film reaches out as a bold and intelligent material with a rich spiritual subtext. It can best linger into the thoughts of those seeking answers to challenging life questions.