- Released Internationally on 21/11/12
- Released in Malta by KRS on 20/12/12
Preview (first published 01/12/12 in VIDA Magazine)
With Cloud Atlas and Midnight’s Children making it to the big screen in 2012, the list of truly ‘unfilmable’ books grows shorter. Here’s another one. The philosophical and quite unique novel from 2001 gets a gorgeous big screen revival, at the hands of celebrated director Ang Lee. One can only imagine the logistical implications of filming a tale where the main character, a sixteen year-old boy from India, survives a shipwreck and lives for more than half a year on a rescue boat with a fully grown tiger. As if the shipwreck wasn’t enough to ruin his day.
Things go surprisingly well, however, and the life-changing journey will hopefully flourish as well on screen as it did on the page. Ang Lee is no stranger to making stunning looking films (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain), but based on this film’s trailers, we’re in for a whole new level of visual awe. It’s exciting to have Lee back in the limelight after a few years of lying low, and this seems to be one film that will appeal to all sorts of cinemagoers.
If there is one film that deserves a proper big screen viewing, this is it. Shamelessly gorgeous from start to finish, as well as being a near-perfect film in every regard, this was, for me, the cinema-going highlight of 2012, and one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on a screen of any size.
From the word go, you realise you’re in for something special. The opening credits help set the scene, in a zoo paradise in one of the prettier parts of India, and for the duration of a sublime lullaby by composer Mychael Danna, we are treated to scenes that would give any top notch David Attenborough documentary a run for its money. Much like most of the film, I would gladly frame any scene from this opening sequence.
Things then shift into a more playful, humorous mode as we chronicle the early days of our protagonist, and in a quasi Amélie-like fashion the story unfolds with larger-than-life characters and wonderful attention to detail. The opening scenes also introduce us to Richard Parker, the tiger who is so central to this wonderful story, and within seconds I had stopped wondering which scenes were real tiger and which were computer-generated. The tiger is a technical marvel, and throughout the film remains as convincing a digital creation as any Gollum or blue alien.
The first act also introduces the subject of religion, which Pi is fascinated with from an early age. He adopts three religions as a child, much to the amusement of his parents, and without being too heavy or overbearing this sets the film up for what will ultimately be an interesting metaphor for questions of faith.
Before long we skip forward to the crucial sea voyage, and the life-changing storm which casts our heroes into a boat together, for a battle of wits and will that may or may not be all that it seems. The film then adopts a surprisingly engaging tone as the survival battle unfolds, often without words or distractions. Much like in Cast Away, the fascinating situation of the main character makes for compelling viewing, and in this case the relationship with the tiger adds another wonderful layer.
In the meantime, we are treated to numerous scenes that surpass even the opening sequence in terms of beauty and marvel. I tried to keep track of the most beautiful scenes, but after jellyfish, whales, flying fish and meerkats I stopped counting. The artistry that has been poured in this film is all up on screen for us to see, and should leave most audiences open-mouthed.
But in case you’re worried that this is just eye candy and not much substance, the film then delivers with an ending that manages to both immediately satisfy but also provide much food for thought, and I for one was pondering the final message long after I left the cinema. It is, after all, the reason why the book was such a success.
On every level, this is the best film I have seen in 2012, and one of the most beautifully made films I can remember. It should appeal to all ages and most tastes, and I strongly recommend you do it justice by seeing it on a proper big screen, and in 3D. To quote from the film, “You have to see this, it’s beautiful!”.