We like to ask, “Movie or Novel, which should you experience first?” I would say either. Because Life of Pi the Novel and Life of Pi the Movie are two independent, incredible creations in a symbiotic relationship.
Spoiler Alert: This article is about Life of Pi the Novel (2001) and Life of Pi the Movie (2012) and it may give away the plot or detail that you would rather not know until you watch the movie or read the novel.
To imagine that one could be high on tea is completely inconceivable. But what do you expect from a woman seated at a rooftop, downing cup after cup of strong Kayonza Tea, reading Life of Pi and laughing , alone, at the dialogue between Pi and ….was it Richard Parker?
With a French man.
Yet, how are we to know for sure since the man is eaten alive before we can see him through Pi’s eyes.
To be at a rooftop, where all you see besides yourself are tree branches, the sky, electric lines, a bird and roofs of other houses, is in no way comparable to the ordeal that the 16 year old Piscine Molitor Patel a.k.a Pi suffers when he finds himself shipwrecked for 227 days and with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker as his sole companion.
I chose to laugh out loud finding laughter the best reaction to things we ordinarily should dismiss as unreal but which give us a fantasy to enjoy.
Reading the novel and then watching the movie, opened ears and eyes to a complementarity between the two. When you read about the Prusten sound made by the tiger, you never stop wondering what the sound is like to the ear. “A prusten is the quietest of tiger calls, a puff through the nose to express friendliness and harmless intentions.” In the movie you hear it; you feel it, the gentleness of it, like a low hum, a soft tiger-like purr, a snoozy buzz.
Also when you watch Pi go Uhmmm! as he devours roots at the island you have no idea it is the sugary taste that is so heavenly to this boy who has only had salt and salt and salt and fish and turtle and even dried strips of human meat but not sugar.
With the movie, you know it is going to be a great watch from the first scenes. You may mistakenly think you switched to the Nat Geo wild channel and if you are not careful you might miss the lead character walk past a pool only you do not seen him. You see his reflection in the pool. The movie is not your everyday thriller but a delicately woven basket of detail and beauty and imagination and impossibilities.
Life of Pi is a story hard to believe and the author is careful to remind you constantly that it is unbelievable. There is a lot of rationalization for each impossibility and you are always reminded that “You decide for yourself what you believe.” I chose to laugh out loud finding laughter the best reaction to things we ordinarily should dismiss as unreal but which give us a fantasy to enjoy.
to let your mind swirl as the starry sky spins on your screen.
While reading the novel, I found myself puzzled on the movie director’s behalf when all that was left was the poor boy, the tiger and the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. How do you make a movie with just that? How does your movie survive monotony? How does it not catch the BORING fever?
The answer lies in the stars, the lighting, the gods, the ceremonies, the illusions. The picture is so dream-like. You have to be willing to let your mind swirl as the starry sky spins on your screen. That was the movie team’s medicine. What would make a great movie though would be a live action animated film version of life of Pi where animated characters like the fish, the tiger, the wind, interact with Pi himself. I would love to see the Meerkats crying “My turn! My turn! My turn! as Richard Parker prowls the carnivorous island devouring one Meerkat after another. That would be hilarious.
If you asked me to choose between Novel and Movie, I choose Novel. It is a master piece. And to even know how Yann Martel came to write this story, makes the writer in me roar in extreme envy, “When will I be that lucky? That stranded in a purple patch, I meet a man who introduces me to another and that other has a story, be it myth or real or exaggerated, that will sale over 7 million copies.
7 million copies.
Even if he was making just a dollar off each novel sold, that would be Seven Million Dollars in his pocket. We are talking 23, 100,000,000/- Uganda shillings off just a single book. And you ask why I resigned from my job at the law firm to be a full time writer!!!