Title: The Life of Pi
Inspiration: The Life of Pi (book) by Yann Martel
The Life of Pi Synopsis
Piscine Patel is the son of a zookeeper who makes sure that his son knows the dangers of wild animals. When Pi, as he is called, tries to make friends with the Bengal tiger Richard Parker (believing that all animals have souls), his father feeds a live goat to the tiger and makes him watch.
The zoo fails, and the family gets on the Japanese boat Tsimtsum to Canada to sell the animals. A storm during the night sinks the boat, and Pi is pushed onto a life boat without even the benefit of the usually-required life jacket, and joined by a hyena, an orangutan, a lame zebra, and Richard Parker. The hyena brutally kills the zebra first, and then the orangutan, for food.
Pi Patel stays away, cowering from the animal until Richard Parker comes out to kill and feed on the hyena. Pi eventually makes his peace with the Bengal tiger, enough for them to coexist on the boat. After living through and leaving a carnivorous island, Pi and Richard Parker finally wash up across the Pacific on the Mexican shore, where the Bengal tiger leaves Pi.
When they arrive, the insurance men and one novelist ask him to tell his story, which he does. [SPOILER] When both sets of listeners express incredulity, Pi responds by replacing the animals with a sailor as the lame zebra, his mother as the orangutan, and the ship’s cook as the hyena. He, or rather his survival self, is Richard Parker the tiger. Both sets of listeners then choose to present the first version of the story instead.
The Life of Pi Book-to-Movie Adaptation
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is generally considered a classic, and would probably thrill anyone who got to the end. The problem is getting to the end. I do not consider myself a reader who can easily be bored, and I do not mind long-winded stories if the telling is enjoyable. I found myself bored nearly to tears by The Life of Pi. (The only book I have found more boring than that is Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), but it was written in the 19th century and is therefore more forgivable).
That Pi Patel was so un-interestingly perfect, even in his pursuit of three religions so he could “love God.” I see what it contributed to the story, but the scene and many others for that entire first part of the book failed to leave me with a good impression of who Pi Patel was and what he was like. It just told me he had a complaining and confused mind.
On the whole, I believe that The Life of Pi was superbly adapted to the movie screen much better than it was a book. Pi Patel is Hindi (Indian), and when they are in Pondicherry, the depictions of life are full and vibrant with color.
The movie, with stunning cinematography and design, brings this cultural beauty out much better than the book does. It fills the space around Pi with design and color, an explosive contrast to the gray of the later storm and the wide blue of the sea which is in most of the movie.
The makers of the “Life of Pi” movie spent a considerable amount of time and money on its animation. Not only the brilliant animation of the animals (by the breakthrough but now bankrupt studio which made the animals for “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”), but on other parts which, they realized, needed it more for the story-telling.
One of these was when Pi Patel was remembering the story his mother told him about the interdependence of all nature as reflected in Hinduism. The interconnectedness of nature inherent in the Hindu religion explodes in the night sky over Pi and in the blue sea beneath him as his memory replays and recounts the story.
The other brilliant use of animation was when Pi and Richard Parker were on the carnivorous island. When reading that section in the book, it did not make an impression on me. That the island was in the shape of a woman was an interesting detail, but it did not immediately remind me of the Hindi dancer whom he left behind in Pondicherry. In the movie, it is only when Pi Patel gets away from the island that the animation transforms the island into the shape of a woman.
If a story-teller is to tell a story well, his or her readers and listeners should carry away with them impressions of characters and events. An award-winning writing teacher of the Storywriting School describes it like looking out the window. If he tells us to look out the window and tell us what we see, we should describe what is on its other side without prompting.
If we notice the presence of the window at all, then the window is not doing its job. A dirty window defeats its own purpose. In story-telling, if the media itself (the writing, the film, the stageplay) distracts the audience from the story, then the window is very dirty.
It is all very well to describe The Life of Pi as a classic must-read that reflects the dual sides of human nature. However, if its readers cannot get through the story because of the unengaging writing, then the book defeats its own purpose: to be read. Because of this, the movie adaptation is one of the best I have seen in book-to-film history. It fixed the story-telling and narrative flow, and did succeed in leaving an impression of those dual sides of human nature.