Ang Lee’s film from Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winning novel. A Canadian writer (Rafe Spall) meets Pi, Piscine Molitor Patel (Irrfan Khan), a lecturer in philosophy. Pi tells the writer he will enable him to believe in God and talks about his boyhood in Pondicherry in India where his father ran a zoo. At the zoo is a tiger called Richard Parker, from the name of his captor. Pi becomes interested in different religions, which annoys his scientific father. His family take the zoo to Canada but a storm sinks the ship. Pi is left on a boat with the tiger, a orang-utan, a zebra, and a hyena. Eventually, just Pi and the tiger are left. They come across a meerkat infested island with a grim secret, travel further, then go their different ways.
This is a story within a story like those Russian dolls. At the end, the Japanese owners of the sunken ship are naturally concerned as to what happened and Pi gives an open ending. Is Richard Parker the tiger, really Pi? Did the ship sink? Does it matter? I enjoyed the film as a sea adventure, like one of those war films whose sailors are stranded on a dinghy. Pi explores the details of how any of us might cope in such a situation like the 16 year old Pi (Suraj Sharman) had to do. This would not be possible without CGI, computer technology comes into its own here. The details of the animals, especially the tiger. are amazing. The sea looks spectacular, then there is the whale rising out of the psychedelic neon water. What would David Lean have done with sea had he had CGI. This film would be his dream answer. As a story about a marooned individual facing the sea, it reminds me of Pincher Martin (where everything in the book happened in a moment before death by drowning). It could also be Castaway or Swiss Family Robinson without (mercifully – ha! ha!) that sanitized family. Pi works as a religious parable: the spiritual worth of survival by ordeal, paralleling the belief in God through a mystical journey. Like a parable, Pi subverts and outrages our rationalist expectations, Pi must show a Job-like endurance in whatever nature throws at him. The film neatly reverses our predatoriness towards the sea and its life, Pi must await what the sea willl do to him. Sharing a boat with a tiger does a neat metaphorical job, the tiger is an enemy (like the sea) but it also faces with Pi the common enemy, the sea. Pi and the tiger have been ejected from Noah’s ark of the ship and they are both Jonah-like in their helplessness before the sea. Since Blake’s Tyger Tyger, the tiger has become the symbol of beauty and power. Why do people gawp at these animals in zoos and circuses if not to admire the danger of death and beauty in one big cat? In Blake, the tiger is a revolutionary force, in Pi its uneasy and difficult relationship with the boy is a spiritual transformation. A spectacular and thrilling film.