However, when I saw earlier this year that a movie had been made I was sceptical bordering on dismissive. How could you possibly make a movie out of that book? It was a story and a philosophical work. Not to mention that one of the central protagonists is a tiger trapped in a boat. Of course, I hadn't taken into consideration the amazing progress that has been made in digital CGI work for films. Life of Pi could not have been made without CGI and the whole film relies on the combination of director Ang Lee's beauteous vision of what the book should look like and the incredible skills of the digital department.
A quick synopsis: Piscine Molitor 'Pi' Patel lives in Pondicherry, India with his family. They run the city zoo. Pi's father decides to leave India and move to Canada, so they pack up the animals and their life and set sail. In the Pacific, the boat sinks. Pi is the only human survivor. He makes in on to a life boat but he is not alone. With him are a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena and a tiger named Richard Parker. The zebra, orang-utan and hyena die within the first few days but Pi and Richard Parker survive and together they cross the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Life of Pi is their story of survival and the wonders they see.
I think what makes the movie work is the incredible visuals, fed by the circumstances of the book and brilliantly captured by Ang Lee. The storm that wrecks the boat carrying Pi, his family and their zoo to America is terrifying. The sights on the open ocean are breathtaking and even the ordinary scenes in India are full of charm.
The ultimate achievement of course, is the tiger Richard Parker. If the tiger hadn't worked then the whole movie would have been awful. I cannot imagine how much time was spent on each of the thousands of tiger shots in this film, but it has paid off. Not for one moment did I feel that the tiger wasn't real. When it leapt, I leapt, when it roared I understood how ingrained was the terror the sound evoked.
Life of Pi is whimsical and enchanting. The extraordinary visuals bring the story to life. Suraj Sharma, who has never acted before, plays Pi perfectly. He is a boy like anyone else, except he believes in God and never gives up hope. I don't know if my enjoyment of the book helped me to appreciate the movie better but my fellow cinema goer who hadn't read the book loved the film too. Even if she did spend the entire time craving curry. I recommend Life of Pi – both book and film. You're not likely to hear a story like it any time soon.
All images courtesy of Life of Pi the film and Yann Martel.