Another new film in the Information Store’s collection is the award winning Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee and starring Suraj Sharma in the title role. Based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel Life of Pi chronicles the adolescence of a young boy called Pi and a dramatic, life changing event which results in him drifting on a boat across the ocean with a tiger as his only companion.
The tiger, Richard Parker, had once belonged to his father’s zoo which was being moved, by boat, to a new location. The boat was caught in a huge storm and sunk; Pi found a lifeboat in which to save himself and soon discovered that underneath the tarpaulin was the vicious Bengal, Richard Parker. The following few weeks would be an emotional and physical struggle as the two drifted further and further out to sea willing to be rescued. The hostility of Richard Parker meant that Pi had to build his own flotation device which trailed next to the boat in order to keep himself safe. Pi fed and looked after Richard Parker from afar and the two developed a respect for each other that meant Pi no longer feared being eaten by the beast. Their journey for survival is a constant battle as fierce storms, starvation and utter hopelessness taint their hopes of ever being found.
The tiger’s name, Richard Parker, comes from several characters through fiction and history. In 1884, a young cabin boy on board the yacht Mignonette was eaten by his crew by means of their survival, his name was Richard Parker. As was the name of another young seaman sacrificed on board the Francis Speight in 1846 which floundered and he was thrown overboard to prevent the lifeboat capsizing. Finally, in the Edgar Allen Poe novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket Richard Parker is a mutinous young sailor who suggests they cannibalise one of their own crew after their ship the Grampus capsizes in a storm. After drawing lots on Parker’s suggestion, it is he who ends up being eaten by the crew. Will the tiger fall to the same fate, will Pi eat him to maintain his own survival?
While the story being told is an epic tale of adventure, self-discovery and survival it is also riddled with morals and Indian folklore. It is also an absolutely spectacular feast for the eyes as the vast, sweeping ocean is brought to life by Ang Lee’s direction. More impressive is the tiger itself which was created entirely through motion capture and advanced CGI technologies and looks like a real tiger. If I didn’t know it was CGI I would have been harping on about how well trained the tiger was, it was thatrealistic. Luckily I did my research.
However, despite the amazing special effects, the epic story and beautiful CGI tiger I couldn’t get over how awful an actor Suraj Sharma was. I had high hopes for whoever was chosen to play Pi especially after being so invested in the book when I read it, I was so disappointed in the result. I found him to be annoying, over dramatic and his performance felt forced and unnatural. So much so, I would go as far to say he completely ruined the film for me. Richard Parker completely stole the show and he wasn’t even a real tiger, that’s how bad Sharma was.
Be that as it may, it is an amazing film to watch and a spectacular achievement for Ang Lee who scooped the Oscar for Best Director that year. Sharma wasn’t even nominated, surprise surprise.
Further Reading in the Information Store:
Life of Pi – DVD ZONE – 791.43 L
Life of Pi – BOOK ZONE – 823.91 MAR
Visual Effects for Film and Television by A.J Mitchell – BOOK ZONE – 791.45024 MIT
Movie Special Effects by Liz Miles – BOOK ZONE – 791.43024 MIL