Life of Pi (2012)

lopAfter watching so many movies nominated for Best Picture this year, it feels a bit weird to give them all the highest rating – movie after movie I’m like “POW” but I can’t help it, I love each one of them and obviously for different reasons. That being said, my love for Life is Pi is so different from others because it’s currently the only movie out of the nominated ones I’ve seen that is not afraid to go beyond realism and gently touch the edge of fantasy. There is something magical about it but it’s so subtle that in the end you don’t actually mind it and in the very end, you feel as if it was all justified for the purpose of the story itself.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Life of Pi is a great movie because it has so many elements working for it from the beginning. Yann Martel’s Man Booker Price winning novel by the same name feels as if the best kind of material for such a powerful movie, though I haven’t read it, I’m very sure the novel would be my favorite after finishing it. If a movie is able to create that feeling, well, that is a pretty good achievement. Another sign of the success behind the movie is the experienced director Ang Lee, who has a very complex background with movies such as Brokeback Mountain, Hulk and Taking Woodstock. From dramas to comic book adaptions to musical comedies, Ang Lee doesn’t seem to have a clear genre but he certainly has an unhindered way of directing.

Having those two elements together was promising even before I saw the movie, plus seeing the promotional images before it premiered added oil to the fire – they were just magnificent. Obviously I will try to keep my cool and use less super positive adjectives but there’s something with Life of Pi that just got to me more than anything else I’ve seen this year. I think this is partly because I watched a mediocre movie before and mostly because it had visually more room to play which made the cinematography stand out from others. Needless to say, I haven’t seen all the Best Picture nominations, but next to Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Amour, I would say it’s currently my visual favorite. And when it comes to the plot, despite my endless love for Silver Linings Playbook, I also want to root for Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan) and Richard Parker (Bengal tiger).

lop2Reason why this pretty clear love for its plot took place is because there is something extra special about Life of Pi. It is so different compared to the three I mentioned before: the tiny element of fantasy it uses to tell the main plot is made powerful by the “actual” story being mentioned in the very end. More precisely, Pi  survives a ship wreck together with Richard Barker, their survival is the main core of the movie but the actual events that happened with Pi being mentioned after he tells his version of the story, make the fantasy filled memory much more effective and powerful. Therefore, it is a complex plot that needs a lot of attention and will most likely give more to understand each time one looks at it while probably generating more questions as well. For instance, where real life and fantasy meet in this movie would be my biggest mystery to discover for the second time around?

Now, there is not much plot to describe, except the facts I mentioned before, because the movie is carried by very few big situations but at the same time very grand visuals. Pi is mostly constricted in his boat and everything happening around him creates additional situations and problems. There are some extremely gorgeous editing scenes as well, with the older Pi (Khan) telling his story to the Canadian journalist and having memories as snippets floating in his scenes. Stand out moments include everything that glowed in Life of Pi, from the fish to the ship wreck, the contradiction with black and glowing blue was not just beautiful to watch but a bit scary at the same time. The color scheme in general was brought to a level of warm vs cold, the heavy use of different tones of yellows and all kinds of blues was dominating – in other words, it was beautiful.

As my thoughts start to run out, I still haven’t mentioned the actual point of the movie and I think I won’t go there for obvious reasons. Not because I don’t want to ruin it but because I think with watching Life of Pi, the experience and understandings one creates in herself, are very different from others. It’s a movie about faith and God, in some ways it’s about the truth being too ugly at times, and all of it hits hard in the end when the symbolism kicks in and twists the main plot into something that it was actually supposed to be. In the end though, my only regret with Life of Pi is the fact that I watched the movie before reading the book because it would have been amazing to read that story. That being said, there’s nothing wrong in watching Life of Pi without reading the novel because Lee does a great job in creating a fantasy world with never actually letting go of its realism.

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12 thoughts on “Life of Pi (2012)”

  1. The film has an okay plot that does what it can to service the rest of the movie, but the strength of the film lies in its powerful visuals, which adds so much to the story. Good review.

    1. I would say the plot is self-generating, meaning, you have to think about things and go further than the movie actually takes you, similar to a book that makes you wonder about things. But yes, visuals strongly carry it like no other. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I put “Life of Pi” as my best film of the year. It is a great combination of technology and storytelling. And I agree with your thought about this film. I doubt that it will win big in this award season, but I guess it’s just a matter of timing. Yet it’s still one of the most awesome movie of 2012.

    1. I’m not saying it won’t win, I mean, it will definitely get something out of its 11 nominations but I have a feeling SLP will be more appealing as a winner. But who knows, in any case, I will probably root for more than one movie for Best Picture this year.

  3. Awesome review! I’m very curious about the visual side of the movie now after you wrote about it – it sounds amazing. I’ll get to see it on February 1st at the latest :/

    1. The visuals are extremely strong. Yesterday though, me and a friend got into an argument and she perceived the movie totally differently in the end than I did. Her way left her not very happy about the movie, my way made it symbolic and meaningful so I’m interested to hear what you think.

  4. Great review here. I really like your notion of “the truth being too ugly at times.” I think that is a lot of what Life of Pi is about. Very well put. I haven’t read the book either, but I’ve heard such mixed things about it. Wonder if it’s great…

  5. Ah, wonderful review. I don’t share your absolute love for the film, but it’s really good… I’m curious whether it’ll work on the small screen. If you’re up to something fantastical, you should watch Beasts of the Southern Wild btw, it’s magical too.

    1. I saw Beasts and I’m going to review it next week but sadly, I didn’t like it as much. Though, I do admit, that a lot of the love for Life of Pi was created by the visuals, so, it was hard to love Beasts for its rawness compared to Pi.

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