“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
Life Of Pi is a novel by Yann Martel you may have already read or not. It now hits the big screen just eleven years after its publishing and is directed by Ang Lee. How well does it entertain?
Pi Patel is a man of fascination for a young Montreal writer. The writer was refered to him by a man in India named Mamaji and one day he’s fortunate to meet Pi in his own Montreal home and he tells him his story:
Pi Patel was born in India and named after the legendary French pool Piscine Molitor. Having the name Piscine Patel was not easy as he would have to endure taunts from his classmates. Then on the first day of school at the age of eleven, he decided he would be known as Pi from now on. He’d even try to recite all the numbers that make up pi to get it through to their heads.
Pi grew up with a wealthy family in India. His family owned a zoo and he experienced a love for the animals. Nevertheless he was taught to fear the wild ones. The zookeeper gave Pi a lesson in wild animals as a child after he tried to feed a bengal tiger who is named Richard Parker by the zookeeper.
Also during his childhood, Pi developed an interest in religion and experiencing God. He was born and raised a Hindu but would soon experience Roman Catholicism and Islam. As a teen he falls in love with a girl named Anandi. However all that has to change as Pi’s family has lost the zoo to land owners. The family decides to move to Canada and sell the zoo animals.
The family travel across the Pacific in a Japanese freighter named the Tsimtsum. The trip is mostly calm except for having a bigoted cook. However tragedy strikes as the ship is caught in a storm in the middle of the Marianas Trench. The ship sinks taking Pi’s family and the crew with them. Pi miraculously survives and manages to get himself in a lifeboat. Pi’s lifeboat overcomes the storm but there’s one surprise: his lifeboat includes a hyena, a zebra and orangutan. The hyena soon kills both the zebra and the orangutan only to find himself killed by the tiger Richard Parker who comes out of nowhere.
So that’s all it is: a lifeboat, Pi and the tiger Richard Parker. He’s able to retrieve the food and water supplies from the lifeboat. He builds a raft tied to the boat to keep a distance from Richard Parker. Pi soon loses much of the food supplies after a whale dives near them so Pi is left with no choice but to fish and collect rain water for Richard Parker and himself. The fish was hard as Pi is a vegetarian through his Hindu upbringing. Over time he realizes that Richard Parker is as vital to his survival as Pi is to Richard Parker’s.
After months at sea they find an island. It seems like a relief. It’s a floating island full of animals, a forest and fresh water. It seems like relief until they learn that the ‘fresh’ water turns acidic in the night and the island has carnivorous plants. They must return to sailing.
The lifeboat does reach land: the coast of Mexico after a total of 227 days. Richard Parker discovers a jungle for him to live in. Pi hopes Richard Parker will acknowledge him before entering but instead walks into the jungle without looking back. Mexican rescuers discover a weak exhausted Pi crying because Richard Parker walked away without him. Recovering in his hospital bed, Japanese insurance agents ask Pi for the story but don’t buy the story with the animals. Pi then gives a second story consisting of his mother, a sailor with a broken leg and the ship’s cook to the same story line. They’re left with the dilemma which story to believe as does the young novelist.
It does seem odd that the movie is tiled the Life Of Pi but the movie focuses mostly on Pi lost at sea for nine months. I think that was the point that there’s always one moment or one situation in a person’s life that seems to define them more than any other moment in their time. It turns out it was Pi surviving in the Pacific Ocean with Richard Parker in the boat. It seems appropriate that this was his moment especially since he was named after a swimming pool and it the Pacific Ocean–the biggest swimming pool in the world–that he’s able to prove what he’s made of. The movie is also a testament of Pi’s character as well. He wouldn’t put up with being mocked because of his name. He was determined to survive at sea despite losing all his family and despite dealing with a life boat with a wild tiger. And he appears to the local novelist as if he was never scathed. I think the incident did a lot to change Pi and helped him to tough things out and move past tragedy.
The movie may be about one boy’s will to survive but it’s also about Pi’s ability to tell a story. He’s good at telling stories about others and about his own life. It’s his storytelling ability at a young age where he gives the Japanese ship authorities two different stories of the sinking that shows Pi’s biggest gift. That could be the best reason for his survival. I will admit that the story overall does seem like an over-the-top story. A teenage boy surviving in a lifeboat with a tiger for over nine months in the Pacific Ocean, surviving typhoons and whale dives, finding temporary relief on an Atlantis-like island, and Richard Parker disappearing in the Mexican forest never to be seen again. Nevertheless this is what’s best about seeing a movie in a cinema. It makes you a believer of that story for two hours. I really enjoyed seeing that movie. It was escapism at its best.
The acting was quite good. Suraj Sharma did a very good job of acting for an actor so young and especially for a debut. You could bet the hardest part had to be simulating the tiger in the boat. I’m sure that in the scenes the actual tiger was used, the tiger had to be well-trained if he was to work in a movie. Ang Lee did a very good job of directing. I mentioned in my review of Hugo of how many renowned directors have done family movies in the last ten years and Ang is the latest. Directing a family fantasia like this and doing an excellent job of it adds to his versatility as a director. He’s already established himself as a maverick director with movies like Sense And Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain and now this.
David Magee did a very good job in adapting the book to screen. The storyline itself is one that can easily appeal to families as some of the most famous family movies have been animal stories. Magee does a good job in creating such a story to charm people of all ages. Claudio Miranda delivers some of the best cinematography of the year. The music of Mychael Danna adds to the film’s magic. The biggest ingredient of the film’s magic has to be the visual effects. The creation of storms, the simulating of the ship sinking, the simulating of animals, the mysterious island, that had to be the biggest and best quality in adding to the magic of the movie. And to have it in 3D is a bonus addition to the magic.
I hate to compare the Life Of Pi to Hugo in terms of which is the bigger family movie masterpiece. Life Of Pi is a masterpiece of its own and makes for a great escape for the whole family. Definitely worth seeing.
Can you believe it has been 100 years since the R.M.S. Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage, and met its doomsday? Even after all these years, the Titanic still fascinates people. There can be many reasons why it still does: its first-class settings, its huge shape, its cloud as being ‘unsinkable’ or even how it fascinates shipwreck aficionados. Nevertheless the Titanic taught people a lot of lessons. Here are the top lessons it taught me:
The First Is Sometimes The Last
From what I heard recently, the Titanic was never called ‘unsinkable’ and that title was only given after its sinking. Actually it was listed as ‘designed to be unsinkable’. If it really was unsinkable, it wouldn’t need any lifeboats, right? Nevertheless even without the title, it’s still hard to believe that such a colossal and legendary ship could sink on its maiden voyage. There have been other ships that have sunk on their maiden voyage but none as legendary as the Titanic.
Disaster Risks Don’t Fade Overnight
It was in the dead of night–exactly 11:40pm the evening of April 14, 1912–when the Titanic hit the iceberg and was doomed. There was nothing for night vision at the time. There’s also some stories that many rescue operations didn’t pick up mayday signals because service was not functioning at the time. They couldn’t have been wronger on that day.
It Wasn’t Just Women And Children First
Interesting how a ship’s survivor/fatality statistics can tell a lot. Yes, the term “women and children first” did happen on the Titanic but there was more to tell. Class also told a lot. There was only one fatality amongst the thirty children in both first and second-class. Third-class children were not so lucky as 52 of the 79 children in third-class–roughly two out of three–perished. Third-class was also unlucky for the women as 89 of the 165 women in third-class died while only 17 of the 237 women in both first and second-class and only three of the 23 women amongst the ship’s crew died. Men were the least lucky as only 318 of the ship’s 1670 men–not even 20%–survived. Class once again played a part in this as 1/3 of the men in first-class were saved while only 91 of the 630 men in second and third-class survived. Even crewmen were unlucky as 693 of the ship’s 865 crewmen died. If you want the flat class statistics of the passengers: 202 of the 325 in first-class survived, 167 of the 285 in second-class died, as did 528 of the 706 in third-class. Remember that line in Titanic uttered by Rose’s fiancé when Rose says half the people are going to die and he responds: “Not the better half.” It is true that the ‘better half’ were luckier.
Even The Rich Weren’t Immortal
I may have mentioned that those in first and second-class were the luckiest of the lucky on board but it didn’t mean they were completely lucky. Shortly after the movie was released I heard a sermon at a church where the pastor made mention to three of the fatalities who possessed hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth. I’m sure if you read books on the Titanic, you’d be surprised how many wealthy privileged people were lost that night. John Jacob Astor, the richest person on the Ship, didn’t make it that night. It’s a good reminder since our present society values wealth and celebrity more than anything else. Surprising how some of the wealthiest of ‘the better half’ were amongst the unlucky.
Corporate Ambition Played A Role Too
Corporation hating may be quite a phenomenon in the 21st Century but we shouldn’t forget that even a century ago, big businesses also competed and had their own casualties. As for the Titanic, it was the cream of the crop of the White Star Line’s ship line and they were hoping this ship would crush its main rival in the shipping business, the Cunard Line. Cunard’s competitive edge was speed while Withe Star’s edge was luxury. It purchased three luxury liners–the Titanic, the Brittanic and the Olympic–to beat out Cunard. By 1917, the Olympic was the only one that was still sailing and still profitable. Starting in 1927, White Star itself was purchased from shipping company to shipping company and would eventually merge with Cunard which was going through its own depression-era financial difficulties. White Star still exists as part of Carnival Corporation & PLC and have their corporate office in Liverpool. Modern Cunard ships use the term ‘White Star Service’ to describe their top-notch customer care.
Today passenger airlines have almost completely replaced Transatlantic travel but there is still one Transatlantic ocean liner left. The Queen Mary 2 is the one remaining ocean liner that offers boat trips from Southampton to New York and it owned by the Cunard Line. And yes, you get the luxurious White Star Service there.
It Takes A Major Disaster For Changes To Happen
It was only after the Titanic that better safety measures came into place. Because of the Titanic’s sinking, it was implemented that more lifeboats be on ships and that more lifeboat drills be properly carried out. Also implemented was that wireless equipment on board be manned around the clock. Started up after the Titanic was an International Ice Patrol to monitor the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic. International harmonizing of maritime safety regulations as well as a treaty for maritime safety also started up after the Titanic’s demise. Other shipwrecks in later years would also provide changes to maritime safety. Sad how it takes a tragedy of such magnitude to make changes for the better.
There Have Been Shipwrecks With Bigger Fatality Numbers
Over 1500 fatailities definitely sounds like a huge number but it’s actually listed in Wikipedia as the fifth-worst peacetime maritime disaster ever. There have been four–one before the Titanic and three since–that have had bigger fatality numbers:
- In 1865, the SS Sultana carrying almost 2400 along the Mississippi River exploded and caught fire just outside of Memphis. An official death toll counts 1547 fatalities.
- In 1948, the SS Kiangya was sailing the Huangpu River just outside of Shanghai when it hit a mine and exploded. The death toll varies from 2750 to 3920.
- In 1987, the Filipino ferry MV Dona Paz was crossing the Tablas Strait when it collided with a freight ship carrying thousands of barrels of petroleum products, igniting an explosion that sank both ships. Fatality estimates range from 1565 to 4400.
- In 2002, the Senegalese ferry MV Le Joola was overfilled to double-capacity causing it to capsize in a rough Atlantic Ocean outside of Gambia. An estimated 1800 people lost their lives.
So that’s what I’ve learned from the Titanic over the years. It is surprising how a big ship that sinks on its maiden voyage can fascinate so many people even today. It’s also surprising how its tragic fate can also tell so much and create a lot of changes. It also reminds you that a disaster of such magnitude can even happen while you’re on vacation. We even saw this year when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran agound, capsized and sunk halfway. The Titanic’s sinking is definitely something to think about all these hundred years later. I know it has me thinking every time I’ve viewed film footage on Youtube of the Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912 and the passengers waving. Did they know?
WIKIPEDIA: RMS Titanic. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic
WIKIPEDIA: White Star Line. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Star_Line>
WIKIPEDIA: List Of Maritime Disasters By Death Toll. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_disasters_by_death_toll#Maritime>