Having read this book when it came out, I am probably naturally going to be more interested in the film than someone who hasn’t. For those that haven’t, I am sure you know the central idea of the story, portrayed brilliantly on the cover of the book with a depiction of a boy and a tiger set adrift in the ocean on a small boat. It concerns the story of Piscine Patel, a young Indian boy whose father is a zookeeper who decides to uproot the family with all the animals to seek out a better life in Canada. Disaster strikes and Piscine (or Pi for short) ends up on a lifeboat with some of the animals, including a tiger. This is framed as a recalled story by the much older Pi who is being interviewed by a novelist in his Canadian home, so we at least know that he survives the ordeal!
The film starts with some clips of animals in the zoo and sets a nice amusing tone straight away. The backstory is an entertaining one but quickly makes way for the main heft which is nearly all cgi. This is not only probably necessary, but also lends it the fantastical nature of the tale. The cgi is actually really good throughout.
There were a couple of areas reading the book that left me slightly unclear of the writer’s intention, those being the ropey island and some of the descriptions of where people and things were in relation to the canopy, bow, and other areas of the boat. In the film, these are much clearer.
There is a strange change of aspect ratio at some points – black bars appear from the top and bottom during the flying fish scene, perhaps to reduce the draw on the processors or give the illusion of things coming out of the screen – and then disappear afterwards. It also narrows the screen at another point. It’s worth mentioning that I watched it in standard 2D projection and it was incredibly immersive, but there is a 3D projection as well.
It’s certainly a film for all ages too, although its worth saying that it is very sad at some points throughout, perhaps because the story is so enveloping and you care about the characters.
So, a touching, funny and emotional journey through a very impressive fantastical visual landscape, brilliantly portrayed by Suraj Sharma. With a framing device that’s functional but, perhaps, not so well acted and a little naïve.
4 on 5
Director – Ang Lee
Starring – Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall
UK Release – 20 December 2012