I'm a screenwriter living in Perth with a passion for film and the arts.
Published May 24th 2013
Awarded four Oscars - this should be good
This review contains spoilers.
Life of Pi stormed into award season taking no prisoners, with 4 Oscars and 11 nominations. Up against lofty competition the likes of Lincoln, Argo, and Les Miserables, Life of Pi stood on its own two feet and delivered. However critics where divided, so I sat down to experience first-hand what the flimflam was all about.
Life of Pi is a story within a story. The primary story line deals with a despondent writer seeking a new muse after abandoning his latest novel. In his travels he is referred to a gentleman called Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi), who has an amazing story to tell. The secondary story line, arguably the main one, deals with the recollection of how Pi survived for 227 days at sea after a transport boat sunk, killing his parents and brother. Pi survived on biscuits, water, and raw fish, whilst contending with a Tiger who also sought refuge on the life raft.
The book of the same name was written by Yann Martel, who provided the inspiration for this adaptation. The film was directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) for which he was awarded the Oscar for Best Director. The screenplay was by David Magee (Finding Neverland). Claudio Miranda also won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was well deserved, as this film serves some of the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen.
Whilst this feel good flick achieved international acclaim, there was plenty of tongue wagging regarding, themes, and plot. I set out to see what the people liked and what they didn't. Cinematography, direction, visual effects, and musical score were stand outs amongst the supporters, whilst the others lamented over the overt religious tones and references throughout the film.
When analysing film, one must always study any material in terms of its premise. The premise for this film (which has been misunderstood by many) is human connection and belonging. From fade in, Pi tells of how he was different to the other people in his town, how he felt disconnected to those around him, and how he was in constant search of connection and belonging. By and large, religion serves as a beacon for those who want to feel like they belong, so the usage of this tool in the story didn't feel preachy. There is a scene in which Pi breaks down after he is separated from Richard Parker (the Tiger). In this scene Pi tells of how he was hurt because the Tiger (his only companion for the last 227 days) left without acknowledging their journey.
Once I genuinely understood the emotional through-line of this tale, I actually enjoyed it more. The beautiful cinematography, direction, and music all connected together to produce a story that actually made sense. Through the use of sight and sound, Life of Pi never deviates from its purpose: that humans and animals alike are connected to some divine being even though we may feel alone and isolated.