Must Watch This: Life of Pi

Two years ago, my brother gave me a book about a sixteen year old boy who was named after a swimming pool and a tiger named Richard Parker. Just a few days and about six chapters into the book, I was sure that it will be one of my favorites. I was absolutely touched by the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, who spent 227 days on a lifeboat with very little food, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a Bengal tiger.

Life of Pi, Life of Pi the movie, Life of Pi in 3D, Yann Martel

Imagine my excitement when I learned that there will be a movie adaptation of the book. Last Wednesday, I bought tickets for me and my brother and headed off to The Podium right after my shift to watch. When I stepped out of the cinema, I have nothing but great things to say about the film.

First – the effects were a feast for the eyes. Most of the animals used in the film were created through computer-generated imagery (CGI). There were four real-life tigers used in the story though. Despite the fact that most scenes were shot using special effects – the Pacific Ocean included – everything still looked real. While at the back of my mind I knew that I was looking at fake meerkats on the carnivorous island, a computer-generated orangutan, hyena, and zebra fighting on the boat, it was overwhelming how close to reality everything seemed. The descriptions in the book were so closely portrayed, if not exactly the same, in the film. I especially liked the scenes when Pi was stirring the water and he saw jellyfish – thousands of them, and when a whale appeared out of the water. I was just dazed as I marveled at the colors and effects.

Second – the actors and the lines were unforgettable. My friend Cel told me about how the actor, Suraj Sharma, got the role. It was really his brother who auditioned for it, and he was there to accompany him. As you know, the brother didn’t get the part, Suraj did. Talk about how destiny surprises us at times.

Suraj did a superb job as Pi Patel. He delivered his lines the way they were supposed to be delivered. It was so awe-inspiring when he was asking God to take him in the middle of the storm because he’s ready to die. It was amusing when he was trying to tame Richard Parker and establish his territory on the boat. It was heartbreaking when he was saying sorry to his family for leaving them behind when the ship sank. His acting, as well as the way he looked – skinny, dirty, but still alive with faith – was just impressive.

The story – how can one not be inspired by a child’s faith? Pi Patel had three religions – he was unraveling the fundamentals of Islam and Christianity but he was raised as a Hindu. Though his father asked him to choose only one and stick to it, he still resolutely inquired about God, and this strengthened his faith. I will never forget what he said about faith and doubt: “Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.”

Indeed, his faith was put to a great test when his family was taken away from him. On their journey to Canada aboard TsimTsum, the ship capsized, but he survived. He was afloat one of the lifeboats and for 227 unimaginable days with Richard Parker, he discovered how he can turn his biggest fears and his faith into food that will sustain and nourish him.

One of the most bittersweet scenes (and my favorite part of the book as well), was when he reached the shore and was dragging himself towards the land. Richard Parker leaped out of the boat, ran towards the forest, stopped, but never looked back. Pi, while he was relating this part of his story to the writer, said, “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” This line is just unnerving and agonizingly real.

Our life is like a lifeboat thrown into a merciless ocean. We are ravaged by storms, we are crushed with waves that knock us down and at times, we almost drown. These sufferings may seem to run forever like Pi’s name, but we get by, we always do. It is solely up to us to find ways to transform our fears into faith and determination.

Facts about the movie:

  • The film was directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain).
  • It has eleven Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Visual Effects) and three Golden Globe nominations.
  • The movie was shot in India, Canada, and Taiwan.
  • Suraj Sharma (Pi Patel) tagged along his brother during the audition in return for a free meal. Life of Pi is his first film.
  • The role of the writer, Yann Martel, was supposed to be given to Tobey Maguire. It was acted out by Rafe Spall.

Sources: IMDB, Wikipedia

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