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Nordling Says LIFE OF PI Is A Powerful Cinematic Experience!

Nordling here.

LIFE OF PI will not have the same effect on everyone.  Sometimes it's a struggle for me when I watch a movie - it's a war between my critical nature and my childlike wonder, and this movie, more so than most, really conflicted me in that regard.  In the end, I dove in headfirst back into the awe and joy of childhood, and that's how I prefer to see movies like this, and yet, some of the ideas and spiritualism of Ang Lee's movie will strike others as simplistic and full of platitudes.

I am mostly not a spiritual person, but LIFE OF PI is a spiritual movie experience.  The 3D is gorgeous (but make sure to see it on a properly lit screen, otherwise the beautiful visions of Ang Lee and cinematographer Claudio Miranda look like mud) and is appropriate with the themes of the movie.  It is immersive, and just proves my point that when it comes to 3D, the studios should let the big boys play, like Spielberg, or Scorsese, and now Ang Lee.  LIFE OF PI is visually stunning, but if it wasn't rich with emotion the movie wouldn't work.

Pi Patel (played by no less than four actors; Gautam Belur, Ayush Tandon, and then Suraj Sharma for the bulk of the movie, with Irfan Khan telling his story as an older man) is in search of great truths - so much that he looks in every faith he can find to understand the nature of God.  Happily a Hundu, and a Muslim, and a Christian, Pi (real name Piscine, but he changes it after kids make fun of it) finds inspiration whereever he can find it.  His family maintains a zoo in India, but financial troubles force the Patels to go overseas and sell their animals to anyone who can buy them, including a majestic Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The ship capsizes during a storm, leaving Pi alone on a lifeboat with Richard Parker.  The logistics of such a living arrangement on the open sea would seem impossible, but it's through the nature of the story and how it unfolds that we watch this unlikely relationship grow.  Pi begins to despair of his fate, and wonders how could any higher power allow such things to happen.  It's these questions that the movie concerns itself with, and while the answers may seem pat to some, for me they resonated deeply.

From a technical aspect, LIFE OF PI is amazing, full of rich visuals that do justice to 3D.  I don't even want to learn how the filmmakers brought Richard Parker to life, so real is this tiger, this character, in the film.  Foe me, even watching making-of videos seems to break the illusion.  For me, that tiger really was on that boat with Suraj Sharma, and that's how I want to leave it.  The colors and sumptuous imagery is a feast, and even through the long stretches of Pi and Richard Parker on the ocean, Lee and Miranda always give us something incredible, whether it's a giant whale rising from the ocean depths, a school of flying fish, or the phosphorescent water.  The beautiful score by Mychael Danna helps bring it all together.  But all these wonderful images would be meaningless if Lee and screenwriter David Magee didn't bring depth and emotion to each moment.

I'm pretty skeptical about most things religious, and I always have been since I was a young boy, sitting in Catholic church trying to make sense of all the ritual and meaning. It all seemed, and still seems, pointless to me.  But I've never stopped looking for a deeper meaning to things.  I've found it in various places, but I've always looked at other people, devout in their faith, as the lucky ones.  Certainty is a wonderful thing, and I don't have it.  I doubt I ever will.  LIFE OF PI doesn't either.  But it's more about the search than the destination - to stop looking, or trying to understand what is beyond ourselves is the true death.  Pi's story (and I have not read the novel by Yann Martel, but from what I understand, the ending is very much the same) is his sense of the world, and how it should be, and the answers Pi finds in his journey give him strength.

And for some, LIFE OF PI will paint a too simplistic view of spirituality.  I can see their point, even if I don't agree with it - the movie stubbornly doesn't answer some pretty integral questions, which will anger many who see it.  But, without spoiling, one particular scene in the movie was where the themes of LIFE OF PI washed over me completely, and I cannot deny that it hit me in a very personal place.  For me to deny that would be wrong, and while I'm still grieving over certain losses in my life, looking for meaning in them, I've found that a few movies have my number in this regard, and LIFE OF PI was one of them.  The moment resonated with me because I felt like I've lived it, and it was at that moment the film truly connected with me.  Again, it was a personal moment, and it won't happen for everyone.  But for me, sobbing and remembering, it truly affected me in a way few movies do, and so I cannot dismiss it.

As a critic, I can see the flaws in LIFE OF PI, but as a lifelong film lover, searching for that rush of emotion and beauty every time I sit in my own darkened church, I cherished it.  Those moments overran my misgivings, and LIFE OF PI was a powerful cinematic experience for me.  Perhaps it will be for you.  Who can say?

Nordling, out.  Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 22, 2012, 7:11 a.m. CST

    donkey love pi

    by gerry derboven

    but yeah, i'm curious about this. sorry Mr The Kidd but i haven't read the review because the less i know about this oddity , the better, it would seem.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 7:20 a.m. CST

    Reading the book

    by NudeandAroused

    It is excellent. I hope the movie is at least as good.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Nordling, you are the lucky one

    by brightgeist

    not the "people devout in their faith". don't wish you had what they have. what you have is much better!

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 8:03 a.m. CST

    I think the movie...

    by MattDomville

    ...could be easily improved with a slight cast change:

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 8:09 a.m. CST

    I feel like rewarding the studio and Ang Lee with my money for this

    by Quarantine

    Honestly, in an era where most studios take the easy way out on projects and view movie-making like a Shark Tank investment I feel like it's almost my duty to support stuff like this, or Charlie Kaufman, or a Studio Ghibli American-release, or anything else that's wondrous, risky and unique that's seemingly well done. If we only support movies like the Avengers it's all we'll ever get. And as much as I love the Avengers as a comic book fan... I think the cinema would be a pretty dull place if that's all we EVER started getting. When I heard they were making this I thought they were crazy. It seemed unfilmable. Even when Ang Lee was brought on I thought he couldn't pull this off. It sounds like he has and I'm now looking forward to seeing how he's created something special out of this.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 8:34 a.m. CST

    the glowing reviews are winning me over

    by Spandau Belly

    I initially thought the novel was both unfilmable (however I thought it could work as animation) and soooooo ten years ago. I figured it would become a bloated silly boring well-intentioned movie. But it seems to be getting great reviews. I guess Lee pulled it off. I might check this out if it hits last-run after Christmas. If it comes and goes from cinemas completely before Christmas, I just won't have time to see this.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 9:47 a.m. CST


    by CuervoJones

    Well said!

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Be like Kidd...hate everything

    by mongo126

    You are obviously some plant or an imcompetent critic since you didn't notice the 7000 things wrong with this movie.

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Foe me!

    by T

    Ah~ spellcheck is still no substitute for proofreading. ;-)

  • Nov. 22, 2012, 11:21 p.m. CST

    I think the movie couaght the SPIRIT of the book then...

    by uberfreak

    I felt no spiritual development in the book just a sense of wonderment which maybe some people equate with spirituality. Of course I think anything metaphysical is mostly nonsense so I am biased and unmoved in this way that perhaps the religious folk might be moved.

  • Nov. 25, 2012, 12:55 a.m. CST

    Speaking of THE GREY

    by Ditch Brodie

    According to Joe Carnahan earlier this year, via The Playlist: "Open Road has said flat out and sort of scrawled it in blood that they’re going to release the film in October 2012 for a qualifying run, which is great."

  • Now, that violates all kinds of safety regulations. I don't know how many of you transluscent blobs have actually been to sea, but let me tell you as someone who has navigated both the seas of life, and the seas of the seas, you simply cannot allow a tiger in a lifeboat. Sure, you're a feeling, Dorito-stuffed flesh bag, and you want to save the pretty tiger, but son, he has to go overboard. KER SPLASH. Shark food. You simply cannot put him in the lifeboat with the Indian (dot, not leather).

  • Not mention illegal.

  • Nov. 26, 2012, 8:22 a.m. CST

    It seemed perfectly adapted.

    by TheMachinist

    This was a near perfect adaption of the book, regardless of whether you like it or not.

  • Nov. 26, 2012, 11:48 p.m. CST

    just got back

    by drave117

    As fine an adaptation as I've ever seen. If you loved the book, you'll love the movie. If the book pissed you off, so will the movie. I loved the book, and I think people who get pissed at the ending completely missed the whole point.