I’ve been afraid of the sea for as long as I can remember. I usually hold my sister to blame for this, as she had a terrifying (for the rest of us) habit of swimming so far out to sea that we’d only see a little bobbing head, leaving the rest of us panicking on the shore. She also pushed me into the deep end of the swimming pool on a floating mat, before I could swim, and then left me there, which is clearly still a sore point. But there are many reasons why I’m afraid of the sea, and the majority of them have to do with death. There are just too many different, horrible ways to die at sea. You can be swept away and drowned (unless you freeze to death first), or be eaten to death by all kinds of nasties, and the reality is that if you manage to survive without being drowned or frozen or eaten and are left stranded in the ocean in a Life of Pi type situation, it’s such a bloody big expanse of water that the chances are that no one will ever, ever find you and you’ll die of dehydration and starvation (while having your eyes pecked out by sea birds, probably).
On reflection, then, Life of Pi was probably not the wisest film choice I’ve ever made, considering it’s a film about a young boy called Pi who survives the sinking of a freight ship (which happens to be carrying the family zoo), and subsequently spends a ridiculous amount of time sat on a makeshift (and very low in the water!) raft, attached to a very small and tiger-inhabited lifeboat, in the middle of a very large and apparently shark infested ocean. This is literally the stuff my nightmares are made of. There were indeed many sea-based near-death experiences, unsurprisingly (although admittedly my list of nasties that might eat me alive rarely included a hyena or Bengal tiger). I must admit I found it to be a very stressful viewing experience, mainly because I’m a huge pansy but also because there were lots of distressing bits with animals drowning or eating each other (all CGI, I hasten to add) which I really didn’t enjoy. I think the part I found most stressful was probably when Richard Parker (a tiger, obviously), jumped into the sea in an unsuccessful attempt to catch fish, and then couldn’t get back into the boat again. I was so worried he’d drown, even though I’ve read the book and knew that wouldn’t happen, but his little face reminded me too much of my own purring moggy fluff ball and I found it all a bit upsetting. (Yet another reason why I wouldn’t survive if I found myself in a Life of Pi type situation, I’d manage to convince myself that a tiger is really just an overgrown moggy who’d like nothing better than to be my best friend and sit on my lap and have a cuddle. A rookie error that I probably wouldn’t be making twice). Okay so I am a ridiculous, sentimental scaredy-cat, but I think this was the most stress-inducing film I’ve seen since War Horse.
Visually though, it was absolutely stunning. The colours were just beautiful, and the 3D was actually really effective. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a pretty film before, and that’s including Avatar (which was okay for the pretty-factor and the exciting first-huge-3D-film aspect but, let’s face it, was really quite a snooze). This, however, was definitely not a snooze. The CGI was incredible, I could really believe Pi was on a boat with a real-life tiger. Goodness knows how he managed to act it so well with a blue screen or green screen or whatever it is they use, but it was very impressive and has obviously been recognised by the bigwigs in charge of various film awards. It’s already been nominated for eleven (yes, eleven!) Oscars and nine BAFTAs, including a BAFTA nomination for Suraj Sharma who played 16 year old Pi and who, believe it or not, had never acted before.
Suffice to say I am not a bigwig in charge of a film award (more’s the pity), but I was also impressed, and this surprised me a little. It’s several years ago now since I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and, although there are some scenes that I remember vividly, most of it’s a bit of a blur and to be honest I can remember feeling far from enamoured with it. In fact there was a point in the middle where I almost gave up entirely. It was written in the form of a diary, and it got a bit too “another day, and I’m still at sea” for my liking. I was a bit concerned when I heard it was going to be made into a film, because I just couldn’t understand how it would ever translate effectively into a feature film, or even how the shooting of the film itself would work with all the animals etc. But actually, I think the story works better in film form. Admittedly Martel’s inclusion of detailed written descriptions about how to go about procuring fresh drinking water from rain would probably prove useful if I were to find myself in the same stranded-at-sea situation, but that’s clearly an unlikely scenario in my case and a nice, short bit of footage showing Suraj Sharma making a rain-catcher is a more appealing prospect for my attention span. Also, from what I can remember from the book, the film seems to be an extremely faithful adaptation, not just in regards to the events of the story itself, but also in relation to the language used and the general style of the film. I preferred the ending of the film, even though it’s the same as the book in terms of what actually happens, because I feel the choice of an alternative version of Pi’s story comes across better in film format. I can remember feeling a bit disappointed with the ending of the book, even though I thought the alternative version was very clever and very unexpected, because I just didn’t like it. I could appreciate it but I didn’t enjoy it, and somehow, despite it being the same, I enjoyed it more in the film version, possibly because I needed the visual accompaniment of the actors’ delivery to really understand it.
If you haven’t already, I would suggest going to see the film in the cinema (definitely in 3D) while you still can, because you absolutely won’t have seen a more beautiful looking film, and I’m sure all the award nominations will be getting the better of your curiosity. But you won’t have long, so hurry up!