Monday, January 21, 2013

Life of Pi: Life of a Man or a Boy?

A castaway kneels on his raft, unable to sleep from the soft blue luminescence in the black ocean. It illuminates his smiling face as he swirls his arm in the water, trying to touch the mystical glow: it’s a whale that leaps from the water and soars through the sky. For a moment, it’s suspended in air and the boy is minuscule in comparison, gazing up in awe. The moment ends and the whale smashes the raft, sending the young man, swimming for his life, into the water. He loses his only food, and the majestic whale glides away.

This scene occurs soon after Life of Pi’s hero, Pi (Suraj Sharma), becomes stranded in the Pacific Ocean with only the company of a Bengal tiger. Reason and logic of adulthood conflict with the curious and unbiased perspective of the child, beginning with the disagreement between Pi and his father (Adil Hussain) about religion and faith. The whale scene juxtaposes reality and magic by placing the beauty of the majestic luminescent whale beside the drive for survival when the whale nearly kills Pi. It’s the curiosity and idealism of a boy combined with the wisdom of a man that allow Pi to survive. The balance between magic and reality appears throughout the film, enticing the question of which is more important.

Director Ang Lee creates a visually stunning film, with cinematography requiring vastness and diversity, and including digital images sewn together in post-production, as described by “The Independent”. The imagery is spectacular, from the desolate ocean to a brilliant sunrise over the water.

Sharma splendidly portrays prolonged loneliness. He playfully lounges on the raft to stay sane. Sharma creates the relationship between Pi and the tiger, making the evolution from extreme fear to asserting dominance over the tiger seem natural, even though he primarily interacts with a blue screen rather than a tiger (“The Independent”). Sharma gives an engaging performance despite the limitations of the circumstances.

The story reflects the importance of reason with the need for imagination—being old with being young.  It combines wise caution with the child’s desire to befriend, to accept. Though many images seem bizarre and ridiculous, such as an island of thousands of barking meerkats, acceptance and suspension of disbelief allow the true meaning to emerge—they allow and compel you to wonder whether magic doesn't exist solely because we refuse to believe in it.

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