Sunday, December 02, 2012

Life of Pi -- Ang Lee's film remains a picture-book affair

Ang Lee's film tries to capture the fury of Nature and man and animal being tossed about with rhyme and no reason. The protagonist, Pi, short for the name of a swimming pool in Paris, is a semi-religious boy in his growing years in multi-religious Pondicherry when it was still a French colony and when it became part of India in 1954. The Noah's Ark type of voyage that Pi's family undertakes to Canada rings both true and interesting, and post-storm the little unstable Eden that gathers on the lifeboat -- the zebra, the orangutan, the hyena and the tiger along with Pi -- gets both edgy and fascinating. But it lasts for but a moment, and that leaves Pi and the tiger face to face. The tiger, called Richard Parker, after the French family friend of Pi and referred to as Mamaji, due to one of those fanciful bureaucratic muddles, is a sort of Man Friday for Pi. The castaways' struggle for survival is captured with enough special effects but the deeper meaning and despair of the struggle for survival is not to be found. The sea remains an almost a benign presence despite its fearful moods. The majesty of the starlit nights in the middle of the sea is shown as a picture-book illustration. Yes. This is meant to be a fantasy tale and the picture too tells it in the manner of a fantasy. It takes away the terror of Nature which should inspire a sense of mystery and even faith in God which is what colours the sensibility of young Pi. The Pi who recalls the tale remains a little overwhelmed and the chap who wants to write his fantastic tale is unaffected by the sublime terror. Perhaps it is meant to be scaled down to the ordinary life experience because mankind cannot bear too much of this majestic terror of the unfathomable universe. Those who have read the book will have to tell whether there is something like the deep meditation of a Hermann Melville in his Moby Dick about sea, animal and man and faith. But Ang Lee's film remains a picture-book affair.

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