Survivors

‘Life of Pi' & The Flat'

Often when the film adaptation of an acclaimed novel fails, it fails through excessive deference—a filmmaker overawed by the book and unable to reconceptualize it in a visual idiom. But things aren’t that simple with Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s screen version of the blockbuster Yann Martel novel chronicling the travails of a teenaged Indian boy who survives a shipwreck and seven months at sea. The novel itself was extraordinarily visual, conveying an explicit preoccupation with beauty and the natural world. It was the kind of book many dream of filming, but few dare. After all, how to make a movie two-thirds of which consists of a boy trapped in a boat with a Bengal tiger?

Thanks to the miracle of digital cinema, that tiger now exists, a creature of bristling magnificence and utterly believable ferocity, menacing the boy from the far end of a thirty-foot lifeboat. Claudio Miranda’s sumptuous camerawork, deepened artfully by computer-graphic wizardry, creates scenes of astonishing beauty, right from the start—like an image of swimmers in a surreally pellucid Parisian pool anticipating a later shot of the boy at sea, with fish of all size passing beneath his lifeboat. Savagely beautiful sunsets and limpid moonrises, the magic of phosphorescent fish making the sea...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.