“I have a story that will make you believe in God.” This is one of the opening lines of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” published in 2001. The novel not only depicts a young Indian boy lost at sea, stranded on a boat with a viscous Bengal tiger, but above all it explores spirituality and faith. The film adaptation begins with that same line, however Ang Lee’s adaptation, despite its dazzling effects and terrific performances, manages only to achieve minimal spiritual awakening.
Life of Pi is Ang Lee’s first film in three years, the last being 2009’s Taking Woodstock. The film follows Piscine Molitor Patel (or “Pi”), who as a young boy started following the beliefs of Christianity and Islam, along with his native Hinduism. When at sixteen his family decides to move to Canada for a brighter future, a vicious storm causes Pi to be stranded in the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with an unlikely companion, a large Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. With limited supplies and pressed with impending doom, Pi’s only chance at salvation lies with Richard Parker.
To start off, this is one of the most beautiful pictures of the year. The visuals are stunning and vivid with detail and colors. Ang Lee does a great job capturing the beauty of India and the mystic wonders of the Pacific, and when watched in 3D it’s even more breathtaking. Suraj Sharma, who plays the sixteen-year-old Pi, gives a note-worthy, breakthrough performance as well as well-respected actor Ifran Kahn, who plays the adult Pi.
Now of course with any book-to-film transfer, stuff is always left out in the process regardless of the amount. Now when talking to people about this film, it seems as if the parts of the book that really dwelled into religion and Pi’s spirituality, were left out. Now as someone who has never read the book it wouldn’t be fair to comment on any comparison. The film by itself though of course goes through how Pi discovers these beliefs, but when facing the possibility of death at sea, the film treaded lightly when talking of spirituality. The film could have used more bite.
Will Life of Pi make you believe in God or have a spiritual revolution? Depending on who you are or what you preach, maybe. However the story is great and holds up to book and on its own. Faith and spirituality is always an interesting area explored in film, and with this film Ang Lee brings to life a story that could change minds and make people think, but will be heartfelt to all who watch it.