The movie has been nominated for the American Academy Award in 11 categories, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The dramaturgy of Life of Pi is built according to the principle of incorporated narration, which is the most suitable for describing faraway travels. Writer Yann Martel, seeking inspiration, comes to Pi (Irrfan Khan) an Indian living in Canada, whose story is so unbelievable that can make the skeptical intellectual believe in God.
According to Pi, when he was 15 years old, his father, a zoo director, announced that their family would have to leave India, taking half of the animals with them and sell them in Canada, to start a new life. The boat is taken by storm and Pi (the role of 15-year-old Pi is performed by Suraj Sharma) is the only person who escapes, however, he shares the lifeboat with a real Bengali tiger with a strange name Richard Parker. The larger part of the action unfolds amidst the ocean.
The director of the movie, Taiwan-born American Ang Lee is one of the most successful American moviemakers. At age 58 he is the winner of Oscar, Golden Glove, two Golden Bears of the Berlinale, two Golden Lions of Venice festival. His most famous works include Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain. Life of Pi will apparently win several awards of various calibers.
Judging by the picture, the main authors of the movie are a workshop of special effects. There is nothing bad about visual saturation, however the question is about the quality of this saturation. The image in Life of Pi rather reminds of television, a quality Western television like Discovery Channel. There is no frame, that has not been highlighted, tinted, but there is too much tint. And this beauty is neither of cinematographic, nor attraction quality. Lee simply takes the images of various cultures, which have been popularized by the same television, like exotic animals and faraway landscapes, renders them with the help of a computer program, producing a picture which is easily digested. Everything is sliding on the surface, everything is made for the sake of a pleasant and not difficult entertainment. There is nothing bad about it: mainstream movies are meant to entertain people, but sometimes the likeness with a kind of animated tourist guide becomes too apparent. Hence all the sufferings of the hero look similarly unnatural and unserious – the drama turns into a melodrama, and sufferings are absorbed by decoration. It is hard to shake off the feeling that the movie is targeted at child audiences, but for some reason is shown to adults.
However, everything mentioned above follows the author’s logic, because Ang Lee is in a sense a talented and very skillful timeserver. He has always very precisely discovered what topic is of highest demand, genre and material do not matter. Do you need comics? Hulk, here you are. Are you missing screenings of Jane Austen’s books? Sense and Sensibility comes to be shown in movie theaters. People wanted to see Chinese fisticuffs – Tiger and Dragon comes to serve you. The topic of gay community becomes actual – and the audience feels amazed about Brokeback Mountain. The 40th anniversary of Woodstock Festival approaches – and aged hippies are wiping nostalgic tears at Taking Woodstock. His productions never make any special revelations, they lack real depth, yet they are effective and well-timed. The same thing refers to Life of Pi, hence exotic things are in special demand these days because of a number of crises and wars.
However, the movie has one more component Lee was unable or did not want to reveal. In the end of the movie Pi tells Martel another version of his voyage and offers the writer to choose which version he likes the most.
Martel is a real person, a Canadian prose writer, who became famous in 2002 after his novel Life of Pi won the Bucker Prize. An unexpected result of the movie is the desire to read the original, for final bifurcation of the narration is something more than a technical trick. This is the eternal problem of literature: What should be regarded tru, a more fascinating story or a more realistic one? What is more authentic, beauty or the truth? What does faith means for the person who acts the role of a creator? Belief in perfection of the form? In a better written word? In a brighter reality, which in the end will remain on paper? Is God the beauty? An artwork? The art?
This trail of literary questions, which at the end of the day are not related to the film, does not end for a long time after the viewing. And this is the very reason why Life of Pi will go down in the history of cinematography at least for not very successful realization of a most interesting idea.
The author is thankful to Kyiv Movie Theater for assistance in preparing the review.