Going into this film, I really wasn’t sure. It’s always hard when it’s one of your fave books. You want them to do justice to how you imagined it all. Is there anything worse than someone ruining your favourite story? I was especially unsure as we didn’t realise it was in 3D, so had to pay an almighty £11 to get in. Cue grumbles of “I could buy it on DVD for that” and “no wonder people download illegally”… and (from Rob) of “it’s not his [the ticket man’s] fault”. When did I get so grumpy?
I became even MORE unsure when, precisely 4 minutes after we sat down, a couple with a toddler and a baby – an actual, in-a-carry-cot baby – sat down in front of us. I think my exact words were, “If that baby kicks off, I’m going to kick off.” Again, seriously, where did the grumpy come from?
The film starts, I pop my 3D glasses on (over my regular glasses)… and I am instantly soothed. Slipped into a lush, colourful, calming world, taking in the animals of Pondicherry Zoo. If you, like me, have struggled with the point of films in 3D – this film is it. In the car on the way home, we were both unanimous that the introduction in particular just wouldn’t have been as good without the depth the 3D offered. Maybe we were wrong, as surely we wouldn’t know what we’d been missing, but it was a truly enchanting start.
And it got better. For a film centred around being on, in and sometimes under the water, the 3D helps you feel totally immersed. I loved the scene where Mamaji dives into the Piscine Molitor (our hero’s namesake) and the camera pans underneath him, so you see the sky through the surface of the water. You really feel like you’re swimming with him – and that engagement with the water itself is something you need to establish early on, before it becomes almost a character itself.
I haven’t read the book for a couple of years, but I was glad I’d read it beforehand. I always think you should read the book before you see a film of it. You’ve had time and freedom to form your own interpretation, which is an important thing! I’ve recommended this book to so many people: once you’ve read it you carry it around with you. And now I’m recommending this film.
For one thing, it’s absolutely beautiful. Thank you Ang Lee. And it’s so simple – it’s about a boy, Pi, who finds himself stranded on a lifeboat (with a Bengal tiger); there’s not exactly a set. Which is what makes the visuality of it so much better – it’s nature’s beauty at it’s best.
The story itself is beautiful too, and incredibly well acted. Raef Spall is really great as the journalist, Irrfan Khan as the adult Pi is sentimental without being saccharine and gives an truly captivating performance – and then we have Young Pi, Suraj Sharma. What an incredible actor. I read somewhere that he’d never acted before this film, but he has such a wonderful innocence to his performance – maybe because he hadn’t acted before. His relationship with Richard Parker (oh yeah, for those who haven’t read the book, the tiger’s called Richard Parker) was really moving, in ways that don’t come across in the book as they do on the screen. I think it was great how they really pushed the visual elements of the story, like the “tiger moments”, and using the 3D and special effects – it did justice to the story, while clearly marking itself out as the visual version.
If you haven’t seen it, go and do so – and read the book too! I hope you’ll fall in love with it just the way I did. Beautiful stuff.