Oscar Hopefuls: Life of Pi


So I have had the utter joy of experiencing both Yann Martel”s novel “Life of Pi” and Ang Lee”s film re-imagining in the space of a month, which means my experiencing of both texts has been intensified – a position in which I imagine many will find themselves. My thoughts as such centre strongly around the idea of the film as an adaptation, rather than as a film in itself – unlike other adaptations, this can hardly be ignored due to the nature of narrative that is central to both texts.

Not wanting to spoil either works, I”ll try and make this pracie spoiler free… Life of Pi follows the remarkable story of an Indian boy, called “Piscine” but nicknamed Pi, born into a family that runs a zoo. Raised against a background of a new, emerging India, Pi struggles as a child of a changing nation, who

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has placed himself within Hindu, Catholic and Muslim belief systems – but enamoured entirely by the notion of God, and his relation to it. However, his more rationalist family finds themselves in financial trouble, and so it is decided that the family is to move to Canada to start a new life. Having to sell their most exotic and most beautiful creatures, the family travel across the Atlantic in a freight vessel to care for the animals – but on the journey, shit happens and then we get the body of the film – so I won”t say any more. Unlike the actual film which played dramatic extracts from the movie on the actual reel – between the BBFC certificate and the start of the film, which was atrocious.

As a film, I think Ang Lee has comfortably accomplished what many saw as the impossible – that is capturing the remarkable and dramatic events of the book on screen. Attempting such a thing before now would have been near implausible given the necessary direction of animals that feature heavily in the text, but now that the technology of CG has advanced, Lee has managed to create a film using what is available to him, but even massaged a remarkable attention to the themes through innovative use of these technologies. This is important, as it is not simply a great story which needs to be told – it is the story of a novelist hearing the story and struggling to find what he needs between the truth and a tale in what he is told. It is this element which helps to lend the work an important edge, as it is here that Life of Pi becomes an allegorical tale that centres around beauty and narrative – which are supposed to engage the viewer with the essence of spirituality. From a personal point of view, this notion of spirituality was weak in the original text, and thankfully this aspect of the work is underplayed in Ang Lee”s adaptation, but Lee has instead held onto the essential question of structure and narrative devices from the book. As far as this transition from page to screen, although there are a number of scenes and chapters missing which I would have liked to have seen included, it is at least unproblematic in this respect. If you haven”t read the book, I doubt you will find much to fault in how the story is told.

As usual for Ang Lee, what makes Life of Pi stand out is the exceptional cinematography which sets this film apart. Rather than linger on the isolation, boredom and survival that bleeds through the ink, Lee”s work is built to be beautiful, enriching the occasionally turgid text far beyond what it had described, and replaces it instead with an epic universe and its beauty. Composition, colours and reflections push the film”s true meaning into the forefront by using devices which are specific to that medium – eschewing a faux-documentary realism which other directors may have been tempted to employ.

However, seeing the film in 2D – but in high quality All of Caesars‘ qualities in Atlantic City are joining with 888 Holdings the Tropicana Resort chose Gamesys Limited the Trump Taj Mahal has an offer with  Ultimate Gaming while its sister-company, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino  has an offer with Betfair. Imax 4k blah blah – some of the cinematography looked unwieldy. Yes, perhaps it isn”t the ideal way, but one could know exactly what the 3D experience would have been, and it would have been underwhelming, but most importantly it is the 2D version which will be kept and treasured for years to come – and ultimately, I can”t help but feel that the 2D version of the film suffers in an attempt to create a 3D experience.

As a side note, I was appalled to see that the screening I was in had a small insertion of clips from the film prior to the film – between the certificate and the start of the film no less – which was, frankly, utterly abhorrent. I may not be usual in wanting to avoid trailers and want to experience, but surely this must be a trend we have to ask be stopped? For almost all of the films I have actually ventured to a cinema to see, I have been punished and nearly had my experience entirely ruined by some cheap marketing footage pre-empting what is about to be seen – another feature of the cinematic experience which has to be ended if it is to maintain any competition to pirating the films.

Oscar hopes

As far as the impending award season – it”s up for a lot, but has some interesting competition meaning that it will almost certainly win something, but probably not one of the bigger prizes. As far as Best Film goes – I think it will struggle. It”s a long list of nominations, and each are brilliant in their own way, and many of the other films stand on their own as great films far greater than Life of Pi does, in my opinion. This isn”t a film I could watch again any time soon, where as some of the other contenders are fast becoming some of my favourite films of all time. However in the lesser categories there is a greater chance of success, with only the staggering work of Roger Deakins in Skyfall really challenging it for cinematography, and even direction Ang Lee might have a shout – although not necessarily for this film, but as a director in general (as so often becomes the case in the politics of the academy). Editing too is a likely win for Life of Pi, as it is very rare that one notices the editing in any film, and it”s intricate flat layering of material (associated with the 3D) mean so in this it has. This aside, even with 12 nominations, I don”t think it will pick up more than a handful of awards, with more technical elements of the piece really standing out against strong competition.

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