The future of 3D cinema depends upon its exploration as an artform unique to itself – something closer to theatre or sculpture than to traditional cinema. Otherwise it seems to do little but offer novelty and a problematic highlighting of camera artifacts. Life of Pi takes up this challenge in some of its visually inspired moments, while in others the 3D is incidental. Perhaps this need for heightened visual attention suggests long form narrative is not the ideal medium for 3D and that it is better suited to others, such as games, event coverage, or porn.
On to the story. It’s a paradox of life that when one’s world is almost destroyed the spirit may soar to hitherto unknown heights, unencumbered by the material, or even the hope of survival.
Life of Pi‘s hero finds himself trapped alone on a lifeboat with a tiger. The situation leaves him little room for comfort but endless scope for his dormant personal resources to flourish. Pi’s journey progresses not so much in a series of triumphs as a procession of endured disasters as what little he has is torn away again and again by the elements. What is inside him is what’s left when everything is gone – a core of raw merciless life embodied by a companion to whom he would be primarily a source of food or a territorial threat – a thing from which he first recoils in fear but also yearns to make peace with, touch, and ultimately embrace if allowed.
Life of Pi‘s metafictional epilogue, querying how true it’s own story was, adds a layer of meaning to the above which is satisfying but not that central to the experience of the film’s unfolding. All in all though, an honest, inspired work as well as a gratifying dose of spectacle.