Watching Ang Lee’s breathtaking (in a purely visual sense) Life of Pi, I found it surprising that I was constantly reminded of that great survival motion picture of the last decade Cast Away, a film I’ve not seen in more than a decade. But what surprised me even more was that despite its trivial visuals, Robert Zemeckis’ film resonated much more strongly with me - even after all these years - than what I saw today. That is to take nothing away from Life of Pi, which is the most visually stunning motion picture I’ve seen in 2012, but there was no point in the film where I was deeply moved for the plight of Suraj Sharma’s Pi Patel as I was for Tom Hanks’ Chuck Noland. The visuals are truly extraordinary, unlike any film I’ve seen. I found myself picking my jaw up from the floor in nearly every scene. But they’re also the reason the film rarely works on any level other than the superficial. When I saw a marvelously rendered Blue Whale leap up from the water amidst a swarm of vividly lit jellyfish, I was literally in awe. One could say too much in awe to be moved when said whale turns over Pi’s self-made raft containing all his rations. The emotional quotient of this scene was greatly diluted for me because I was more bothered about how they rendered the most realistic blue whale I’ve ever seen, even National Geographic couldn’t have done it any better. And that isn’t the only instance where the visuals take precedence.
Much earlier, a very young Pi witnesses a goat being ripped to shreds by a tiger, and my mother asked me an odd question, “How did the tiger pull that goat through the cage?”. I found it odd because not a moment earlier, there’s a scene where Pi’s mother covers his eyes from the brutality, and I probably felt that my mother was more sympathetic to the goat than the child. Later, Pi cries after witnessing the ship carrying his remaining family sink right in front of his eyes. The ship is wonderfully lit and the visuals put James Cameron’s Titanic to shame. He says, “I am sorry.” Yet again, I was more concerned with how brilliantly the storm around him had been visualized. Towards the end, when the adult Pi (Irfan Khan) concludes his extraordinary tale and tears up that the tiger who provided the sole company for his journey left without saying Goodbye, I found myself once again unmoved. Once the film was over, I realized there were many such incredibly emotional moments that were supposed to tug at my heart-strings, but the latter quite simply refused to budge. In the end, all I could take away was that although it is no Avatar, Life of Pi is just another visual tour-de-force, nothing more and nothing less.
- Banner image used falls under fair use and taken from Flickr