Animadversion: Believing in miracles
In the Life of Pi, the new existential drama by director Ang Lee, a young Hindu boy finds himself adrift at sea on a small lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger. As this isn’t a Disney family film, we know that some of this non-human supporting cast will be tiger food; and because we are already somewhat familiar with the premise of a boy and a consistently hungry, non-friendly tiger, the three other animals make a point about the circle of life, survival and religious beliefs.
Judging exclusively from Lee’s visually whelming, inconspicuous and uncluttered big-budget film, Pi (adapted from Yann Martel’s popular novel) is a small story — an anecdote — about a self- lesson. That Pi (initially played by Ayush Tandon and then Suraj Sharma) survives and tells his own story as Irrfan Khan, years later to a novelist (Rafe Spall) — it is clear that Pi will make it through the film.
The journey itself is a mixture of emotions and blockbuster-level digital imagery. Think one part Cast Away and Robinson Crusoe and one hefty huge chunk in the middle, grand CG pageantry of spectacular and sublime skies and ocean.
Life of Pi’s very realistic CG Bengal kitty (called Richard Parker) takes precedence over the story. Lee, already a master of incredible restrain paces out Pi’s caging with the idea of religion with delicate rationality (at one point, he thanks the Hindu deity Vishnu for “introducing him to Christ”); and of course his seclusion with Richard Parker (aka the tiger) plays a different angle on the situation.
Released by 20th Century Fox, Life of Pi is rated PG. There’s bloodless bloodshed by digitally created animals. The film also stars Tabu, Adil Hussain and Gérard Depardieu.