Religion and science have long been at war with one another for centuries. But in Ang Lee’s soggy survival at sea saga Life Of Pi, they make for exceedingly strange when not bizarre bedfellows.
Or rather, lost at sea in a faith-based encroaching fantastical 3D tall tale which both literally and figuratively poses the question, can a story, or rather the elaborate gadgetry of a Hollywood movie make you believe in God? Let’s just say, techies in the audience are likely to swoon as usual over the supernatural special effects that tend to upstage the narrative, but the doubters may prevail.
Life Of Pi is adapted from French Canadian writer Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, and reportedly inspired by Martel’s mystical conversion while visiting India. The story itself follows the ordeal of Indian teen Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), who survives 227 days on a raft in the Pacific. This, after the ship carrying his family and the zoo animals they own to a new life in Canada, sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
The harrowing prolonged journey, during which Pi finds himself accompanied by several of the zoo creatures, including an intimidating tiger, is in effect a mixture of reality and hallucination to which only Pi is privy. And that is narrated throughout the film by the adult Pi (Irfan Khan) to a Canadian friend who is a nonbeliever. But who will presumably by the story’s end see the metaphysical light, as will the audience.
Did I mention that the tiger’s name is Richard Parker? Don’t ask. And as famished as the carnivorous jungle critter may be, he’s never quite hungry enough, or even clever enough, to devour his raft mate. That is, if you buy into the swimming tiger yarn as Pi’s gullible, captivated colleague does. But that’s apparently the moral of this story, that religious faith has no reason, and is a dish best served up in well, mesmerizing Hollywood 3D.
As for the telling of the tale, let’s just say the narration is delivered in an annoying monotone, and somewhat akin to being stranded at sea for a very dull long time. While the digitalized waves knocking both man and beast about, may leave you yearning for some Dramamine. If not an infusion of caffeine. In summation, time to put out a call for the separation of Church and Hollywood.
The Verdict: Richard Parker, you’re no Moby Dick.
Life Of Pi is the Opening Night feature of the 2012 New York Film Festival. More information about the NYFF is online at filmlinc.com.
20th Century Fox
To see the trailer of Life Of Pi: