These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.
— Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Life of Pi, a fantasy adventure novel written by Yann Martel, won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in the United Kingdom shortly after its publication in 2001 after being rejected by five publishing companies before its release. The narrative revolves around an Indian 16-year-old named Piscine Patel, who shortened his name to Pi for obvious reasons. On his trip to Canada from India, the boat sinks. Having lost his family, Piscine is forced to spend over a year on a lifeboat lost at sea with a tiger named Richard Parker.
Some who have read the book might recognize that Life of Pi is an “unfilmable” book. In fact, the appeal of the book comes mostly from its message: a story intended to make the reader believe in God. Such a theme is difficult to translate to film. However, director Ang Lee surprisingly does an excellent job doing so, as proven by eleven Oscar nominations for the film.
The film itself has its theme, that everyone has their own way of discovering God. Out of an infinite number of ways to find God, Patel’s story is one of extraordinary drama. Pi must take the nearly impossible mission of surviving in the middle of the ocean to discover his God.
The 3D effects provide an excellent backdrop to the story. Scenes of the boat sinking and Richard Parker’s attacking Pi are key moments where the 3D effects really shine. The storm effects, as well as the island’s beautiful flora and fauna, are animated so well that they look completely realistic.
However, in my opinion, the action and plot approach too slowly, especially at the beginning. The side-story cutscenes describing Patel’s discussion with a potential author disrupt the storyline at unsuitable times and tend to divert the viewer’s focus away from the theme. Also, the apparently “emotional” scene does not receive enough pretense; therefore, the climax is vague, if not nonexistent.
Nonetheless, Ang Lee’s masterpiece still proves to be an excellent film adaptation to Yann Martel’s marvellous tale, which United States President Barack Obama praises as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”.