It is always with a feeling of impending doom that I watch an adapted film where I have already read the book. It is very difficult for an adapted movie to satisfy a book lover.
In that sense, Ang Lee deserves credit for pulling it off. Instead of being an re-interpretation or reiteration of the book the film becomes the completion of the book. May be it also reflects on the personality of Ang Lee he doesn’t feel the need to forcefully change something to establish his authority over his work. The visuals and imagery of the film were what the book was lacking. My only gripe is that the spiritual discourse and Pi’s tryst with religions in the beginning was a little bit too much on the face. Because of that hammering, it is now difficult for the movie to transcend the author/ film maker dictated meanings and symbolism.
Regardless of nitpicking, Life of Pi is one of those poetic masterpieces that you know you are going to love even before the title credits are over. One of those stimulating reminders that cinema can enrich us rather than just provide some mind numbing cacophony.
Should you read the book or see the adapted film first? Well here is the problem. If you see the film first, there is not enough incentive to get into the trouble of spending 5-6 hours on a book where you know every beat, just with more beating around the bush. Unless the language of the writer absolutely captivates you. I can imagine seeing a film based on ‘Catcher on the rye’ or ‘Pedro Paramo’ and still enjoying the book afterwards. But with most plot oriented books, after watching the film it is going to be difficult to enjoy the book because there are so many details coming your way without the hook of ‘what happens next.’
And this time around, I tried it the other way. I read the book first. And what do I think? I think after reading the book, it is really tough not to be disappointed with the movie as you naturally build an allegiance with the book. So much of details, back story, nuances etc are lost on the chopping table.
Anyway, this was an interesting experience. It gave me an insight into how different the priorities of a novelist and a scriptwriter are. After I read the book, before I watched the film, I tried to make a note of all those aspects that I would pay attention to, if I am adapting this book.
(Minor spoilers ahead)
-I thought I would take out the whole track of Jim Prideaux working as the teacher (lot of pages are devoted to it in the novel) because it doesn’t add much to the actual story.
- In the film even though it has not been completely taken out, it has been kept to a bare minimum.
-I thought I will resist the temptation to start the film in the middle of the action (which is the fashion nowadays). Continue reading