Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI movie (based on Yann Martel’s fantasy adventure novel published in 2001) finally premiered late 2012, showcasing a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery….whereby whilst cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with a fearsome Bengal tiger.
LIFE OF PI begins and ends in Montreal with a writer who, seeking inspiration happens across the incredible story of Piscine Militor Patel growing up in Pondicherry, India during the 1970s. Piscine, known to all as Pi, has a rich life. His father owns a zoo, and Pi spends his days among tigers, zebras, hippos, and other exotic creatures.
Pi grew up as a Hindu, but discovered the Catholic faith at age 14 from a priest; and then meets Muslim Mr Kumar and begins practicing Islam. The boy avidly and openly practices all three religions and develops his own theories about faith, belief, animal and human nature.
But when Pi attempts to befriend a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, the young boy learns a harsh lesson from his father about the relationship between human and beast.
Pi will never overlook that lesson, which impacts his insatiable curiosity about the world and, ultimately, the journey upon which he is hurtled.
The diversity of Pi’s world is shaken by sweeping political and economic changes in his country, and when Pi turns 17 and his parents decide that the family must emigrate to a better life.
Choosing to relocate to Canada, Pi’s parents close their zoo, pack their belongings with some animals from the zoo; and board a Japanese cargo ship, where they encounter a sadistic French chef and a friendly sailor. Late in the night, deep at sea, Pi’s joy at the onrush of nature turns on a dime to cataclysm. The ship sinks, but Pi miraculously survives. He is cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard a boat with a most unexpected traveling companion – Richard Parker.
As they embark on their adventure, the ferocious tiger, whose true nature was seared into Pi’s memory at his family’s zoo, is Pi’s mortal enemy.
The two castaways face unimaginable challenges, including nature’s majestic grandeur and fury, which lash their small lifeboat. One particularly monstrous storm becomes a spiritual experience for Pi, leading him to question God’s plan for him. Pi rails at the gods in the sky, but through it all, he never loses hope. He gives thanks for the little grace that his hard, hopeless life bestows onto him – finding joy from simple things such as an old survival manual and a bit of pencil to write with, as well as from the solace of the ocean’s beauty: the bioluminescent, rainbow hues of magnificent schools of flying fish; the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells; and a radiant humpback whale that streaks to the surface of the ocean.
As his story is much doubted due to the impossibility of it reality, Pi relays to them a second alternative tale whereby his mother, a sailor with a broken leg and a cook were aboard the lifeboat instead of the animals; the cook kills both the sailor and Pi's mother, and eventually Pi kills the cook. All of which has similar role representation by the various animals but with the gory, cannibalistic elements as a human-involved story.
The movie ends with the So-which-tale-was-the truth? question to the viewer; as well as indication of Pi’s ultimate conviction that just like his fantastical tale, the belief in religion is the easier truth for humans.
In the movie, through Mr. Lee’s use of 3D, we are there with Pi and Richard Parker, experiencing these extraordinary and visually stunning moments, immersed like never before in an epic movie adventure interwoven with an emotional and spiritual journey.
“Life of Pi has been translated into forty-two languages. To see it translated on film as a movie is like the forty-third. The language of cinema is a universal one and to see the story translated that way is a thrill.” – Yann Martel