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Life Of Pi

Life Of Pi


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.

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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies cover imageSynopsis

The Peter Brook film made in 1963 in black and white about war-evacuated British schoolboys marooned on a desert island and their descent into evil.  They victimize a fat kid they call “Piggy” and then turn on Ralph.  They hunt him down until they are rescued.


It curiously replicates the faults of the book insofar as Golding tends not to go into details of desert island survival.  Things get done as if out of cloth, and it is the same in the film, you only see instant results of actions.  This just makes you think of the unseen film set adult supervision and handiwork, so it’s like being at Summerhill school where the kids are compelled to be themselves  This also reminds me of those adult actors playing children in Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, of course the dialogue is stilted and the children are awkward and you wonder what they would be like away from Peter Brooks’ supervision and William Golding’s agenda.

The black and white gives the film a contemporary Starbucks style of coffee house primitivism, the coral seems almost to be sculpted into totem heads and the tropical vegetation looks denser than it would be in colour!  It’s as if this primeval anti-Eden had been given a Henry Moore workover in stone, bone, and wood.  Given the very young age of the school children, I wonder how convincingly Golding’s concern about original sin and natural human depravity can be presented by what looks like a school outing gone a bit haywire.  Jack is like Flashman from Tom Brown’s Schooldays, who comes into his own when fiendishly bullying Piggy’s plodding working class decency.  This is well done as Piggy becomes the sacrificial victim of Jack’s venomous class malevolence.  Ralph looks like a C.S.Lewis – Arthur Mee – Enid Blyton jobsworth of baffled Christian forthrightness, which is Brook’s intention.  At times these three look like they’re playing up, as precociously as they can, to what adults expect of them in what looks like arthouse anthropology.  Like the children in High Wind In Jamaica, this film is a corrective to the Swiss Family Robinson wholesomeness of Disney on a tropical island.   It certainly influenced subsequent ‘serpent in paradise’ films like The Beach.

As for Simon, the schoolboy actor can’t be expected to bear the load of moral significance which the book gives him, he can only look like a sulky lad.  As he stares at the pig’s head on a stick, he seems not to be confronting an hallucinatory scary symbol of evil but at a schoolboy prank gone wrong.

An occasionally exiting film (in spite of the arty flute music), but is not totally convincing.


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