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Life of Pi

Why see “Life of Pi”? If you have read the book, as so many have, you can have the expectation that a movie has very little to add to the inner monologue provided by the protagonist. The book already comes in spectacular colours and flavours, its exoticism does not require illustration. The story of a boy caught on a life boat with a couple of zoo animals after their ship has sunk lends itself to hours of staring on the water, with a few moments of real-life spectacle changing the tone occasionally (whales, sharks, storms, mostly). But the interesting bits really happen within Pi’s reflections on life, location, religion and family – and there is all reason to wonder whether there is a way or a need to paint this on a movie screen.

Ang Lee has chosen to focus on the few bits that lend themselves to optical spectacle, and he fares well with it. It is the water and the stars, the grass and the hills that star in his movie, with Pi sitting admiringly in the center without too much to do. Watching this, I found myself admiring the images, and waiting for the next good bits to come once the last ones had vanished. If you know the book, there is no drama in the film, as the few plot points are easily remembered even if you read it a decade ago as I did. I appreciated the film as something like a 3D version of Baraka (or Samsara, more recently), beautiful to look at, but without plot to speak of. As such, it works better than if to hold it accountable for the philosophy rolled out in the novel, and the moments where this philosophy comes into the script are even a bit clumsy (were we all really so easily impressed with this when reading it?). But watching Richard Parker jump through a field of meerkat snacks and take a full bite – that is a lovely sight, indeed!

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