Saturday, December 8, 2012
Film Adaptation of Life of Pi, or "That's a Tall Order"
I've read Pi twice in the past few months to gear up for the film. I listened to the audiobook, which was a first, but I really recommend it. The point is, I'm more familiar with the book now than I've ever been. And I say with pleasure that the film naturally had some additions and deletions from the original text, but it did a near perfect job of capturing the spirit and message of the book. It was playful, tragic, sublime, joyful, and wise.
There are a few things that I didn't really appreciate about the book until I saw the film. I never thought, for example, of how the life boat is this one point suspended between the vastness of the ocean and the infinity of the cosmos. Ang Lee drives that point home several times in magnificent shots of the boat from far off with the heavens reflected in the surface of the water.
I'd never realized how much Poe's sense of the sublime factored into Pi. The sinking of the Tsimtsum is at once exquisitely beautiful and magnificently terrifying. Richard Parker likewise continually inspires that same awe and fear. And there's a near-catastrophic encounter with a whale that was invented for the movie, but certainly fits in like it belonged there the whole time.
And I'd never been so convinced by the story "without animals." Don't get me wrong, I still subscribe to the story "with animals," but there was a critical bit of leverage in how the movie chose to present the second story. When I read the version without animals in the novel, I always imagined the action as it was being described. But rather than show the second story, the movie just has Pi tell it. Watching him deliver the second account and watching the emotional toll it took on him lent a layer of credence to the second story I'd never felt before.
But back to the more movie-ish parts of the movie. The score was apt, the acting was magnificent, and the cinematography was breathtaking. It's one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. I love the way they introduced Richard Parker. Everyone who played Pi during the various stages of his life was a joy to watch. All the animal effects were totally convincing…
I really have no substantial complaints. The film enhanced my reading of the book, which is more than I could have asked for.
I have more that I want to say about the book, but what else is new? I don't think it would be very appropriate or fit well into this post. But I'll just close with this: I love the simplicity of Pi. Although the structure and themes of the novel are so complex and intricate they spiral out towards infinity, the basic premise can be expressed with just three nouns. Boy, lifeboat, tiger.