The upcoming Life of Pi film is released on the 20th December in the UK and it looks absolutely amazing. See the trailer here if you’re interested (and you should be). The thing is, I knew even before I read the book that Life of Pi was a damned weird story to turn into a movie – it’s a boy on a a boat, generally musing about the fact that he is, in fact, on a boat. After reading the book? Yeah, I’m not that much wiser.
Plot summary – One boy, one boat, one tiger …After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.
A brief summary, you might think. Oddly enough, that is pretty much the entire story. That’s the reason why it’s such a strange book to base a film on and, although I hate to say it, the movie does look way more interesting than the novel. Basically, the ship carrying Pi and the animals belonging to his family’s zoo capsizes during a vicious storm and Pi survives – albeit on a small lifeboat with a hungry tiger. Not much happens as such. It’s hard to explain. Things happen but as a series of short, insignificant events lost in the overarching theme of loneliness at sea.
The problem with Life of Pi is that I didn’t particularly care about reading it. I was happy enough once I’d actually picked it up, but I just didn’t feel the urge to go back to it once I’d put it down. It seemed like way more of an effort than it should have. Now I’ve finished it, I feel profoundly apathetic, if such a thing is even possible.
I’m taking a blindfold to see this film. I do not like fish at the best of times – I’ve been known to have panic attacks in pet stores. Half-dead fish, in particular, terrify me. I understand that this means, should I ever be stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat, I will promptly die. I am okay with this as frankly, it would be the preferred cause of action. Therefore, I don’t particularly enjoy reading lists of the things that can be done to half-dead fish before they are eaten and I doubt more sane and logical readers would either. I’ve read a lot of gross and graphic books in my time, but this one really… ugh.
Sometimes my heart was sinking so fast with anger, desolation and weariness, I was afraid it would sink to the very bottom of the Pacific and I would not be able to lift it back up. At such moments I tried to elevate myself.
I would touch the turban I had made with the remnants of my shirt and I would say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S HAT!”
I would pat my pants and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S ATTIRE!”
I would point to Richard Parker and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S CAT!”
I would point to the lifeboat and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S ARK!”
I would spread my hands wide and say aloud, “THESE ARE GOD’S WIDE ACRES!”
I would point at the sky and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S EAR!”
And in this way I would remind myself of creation and of my place in it.
It does have its good points, although generally they aren’t related to the story itself. It has quite a rambling ‘voice’ which works quite well – Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with only himself to really talk to, so he can go off on rambling tangents occasionally. It’s actually quite interesting – I learnt more about the running of a zoo and the habits of animals from Life of Pi than I did from We Bought A Zoo, and I adored that book. There are also pages and pages about the zoo debate from the pro-zoo side, which you don’t often come across in books.
The ending. Ohhhh dear. Looking through the Amazon reviews, it seems to be that either you love it or you hate it. It seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me, although I am curious how they’re going to pull it off in the film. I’m 85% certain that they’ll change it completely as, in my opinion, it defeats the purpose of the entire book. It was as if Yann Martel couldn’t quite figure out how to end it, so he tried to pull off a profound, clever thing… and missed.
As you’ll probably gather, I was less than impressed with Life of Pi. It was okay and I don’t resent the time I spent reading it, but I doubt I’ll ever feel the need to reread it. I will see the film (with afore-mentioned blindfold) because it still looks amazing, and who knows – maybe they’ve actually managed that mythical concept of improving a book!
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