BY PETER MCLOUGHLIN Ang Lee’s latest film, Life of Pi, re-positions him as a film-maker of real significance. I haven’t read the novel – though the conclusion is precise enough to assume that the ultimate point of the novel is accurately conveyed – and I deliberately didn’t watch previews or read any of the hype. I went in blind –a little sceptical. But I came out of the theatre thoroughly impressed, in awe even. Firstly, it’s the first film since Avatar to use 3D in a way that wasn’t distracting. The opening sequence illustrates well what follows – many slow, delicate, natural moments, captured with precision and vivacity. Life of Pi has the most effective and immersive use of 3D I have seen. It is a joy to behold. The story is simple. A young man is shipwrecked on the North Pacific Ocean, and he has to share his life boat with a Bengal tiger. The majority of the film follows the man and the tiger as they wrestle for dominance of the life boat in an unforgiving ocean. It is not the typical snappy, restive Hollywood affair – but it is utterly arresting. The film balances the inevitable cynicism of the likelihood of the situation in the most wonderful way: by feeding the viewer a new incredible – but real – sea creature in scene upon scene of the ocean journey. It is like an episode of Blue Planet in the most complimentary way. This ensures the viewer’s sense of what is possible is challenged repeatedly; by showing the fantastic in reality, and allows for the more implausible moments to captivate without disbelief. Lee’s use of colour and minimalist imagery combine to display at once the bizarre and the beautiful. It is a film created with a love of nature at its core. But the destructive force of nature is shown too – and if I could criticise the film even slightly it would be that while the balance of beauty and destruction in nature is well examined, the view of India we are show at the start of the film is simply romantic. There are no contrasting scenes of real poverty or destitution. The world of human kind
wasn’t as delicately balanced as the natural world – but, that is minor to the overall gentle harmony of the film. The cinematography; the balance between moments of action and moments of quiet; the musical score; the depiction of the ocean’s ecosystem and the conclusion, too, was so effective that it was the first argument I have heard in a long time that justified the belief (rather than try to prove the existence of) a god – Life of Pi is magnificent.