Life of Pi: Adaptation

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The movie, Life of Pi (2012) by Ang Lee is adapted from the novel "Life of Pi" written by Yann Martel in 2001.  The narrative is centered, on a young boy, Pi, who finds himself stranded in a boat with a Bengal tiger following a storm that leaves everyone else dead. Hence, being the only survivors, Pi and the tiger are forced to trust each other for them to survive the ordeal. Pi is portrayed as a young man whose faith is grounded in different religious beliefs; Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Following his staunch religious background and morality, Pi develops kindness towards both animals and human beings. However, when faced with the starvation and death ordeal, he is forced to do away with his morality to survive. Thus, the plot of the story unfolds as Pi gives a more realistic narration of the ordeal as well as what he did to withstand the harsh conditions of the wrecked boat. Overall, the moral of the story is believing and trusting in God under all circumstances. The adaptation of the book into the film was dominated by critics who argued that the book could not be adapted since it had more animal characters than humans and it only focused on one character. Therefore, the adaptation of the story Life of Pi into a film varies considerably from its original storyline in the book, but the differences in the two may have been intentional to help keep the movie shorter and to make it more captivating by bringing out the real emotions of the characters.

The first key difference in the story is the use of visual imagery. In the book, Martel heavily relies on the use of words to evoke colors and visual images in the minds of the readers. For example, the scene when Pi kills the dorado is depicted by the use of colorful and vivid images to help evoke clear visual images in the minds of the readers. The scene is captured under the statement, "Blue, green, red, gold and violet flickered and shimmered neon-like on its surfaces as it struggled. I felt I was beating a rainbow to death"(Martel 76). On the other hand, the film relies on the use of computer graphic imagery to go about key obstacles in the book, to effectively connect with the viewers. For example, most of the animals in the film such as the tiger, hyena, zebra, and fish are all animated, which helps to create a strong sense of emotional characteristics and interactions with the viewers.

Additionally, the story in the novel and the film varies considerably in regards to the issue of Pi's love interest. The film, introduces, Anandi, as Pi's girlfriend. Pi falls in love with Anandi when drumming in one of his dance classes, but the two break each other's hearts when Pi leaves India.  With the inclusion of Anandi in the film, Pi adopts a sense of urgency and emotional dedication. Pi's love towards Anandi makes his departure from the Pondicherry even the more difficult as he keeps recalling her image. In the film, therefore, Anandi serves as an excellent motivation for Pi's survival of the ordeal. On the other hand, the novel does not include Pi's love interests, and he does not have a girlfriend. Also, Pi does not attend any dance class in the novel, and neither does he play any musical instruments.

Another point of comparison between the two is in the PG rating. The book is dominated by all sorts of violent and grotesque acts to illustrate just how far Pi was pushed beyond the barriers of human dignity. Pi's survival in the book is thus marked by constant violent scenes like the tiger devouring the zebra and Pi slaughtering of the turtles and the fish. On the other hand, the film is rated PG with minimal to no violent scenes. The film is thus a tamer and toned-down version of the story to help the viewers to better understand the storyline without being affected by the constant violent scenes. The film is thus spared of the blood, violent and gory details that dominate the novel.

The tiger, Richard Parker is also depicted differently in both the film and the book. In the novel, Pi spends most of his time training the tiger. He uses his mastery skills with animals acquired at the Pondicherry zoo to train the tiger, where he uses the prodding stick and a whistle to make the tiger react to different sounds and to submit to his commands. On the other hand, in the film, Pi quickly gives up on the training, and in the end, the two are united by sheer exhaustion. In one of the scenes, the tiger is seen on Pi's laps, where the two appear dazed, starved, dehydrated and on the verge of death. As a result, they both make their way to the carnivorous island in search of food.

In conclusion, both the novel and the film, Life of Pi, are similar as they follow the amazing story of Pi and his ordeal in a lost sea. Pi in the company of his Bengal tiger finds himself in a life and death encounter that he must overcome. However, the story in the film is significantly shortened where most of the scenes in part one of the book are either reduced or completely cut off in the movie. For instance, the film omits most of the childhood stories that Pi experienced like living in a zoo and also discovering his religion. Second, there is a difference in Pi's relationship with his mother as well as the introduction to religion in both the film and the book. Religion is depicted as a dominant theme in the book; nevertheless, unlike in the book, in the film, Pi is introduced to religion by his mother who is painted as being extremely religious. This may have been intentional in the film to make the relationship between Pi and his mother more intense so that the effect is even more significant when his mother dies. Therefore, the differences in the film and the novel, and an inaccurate portrayal of the original story in the film are intentional to make the film shorter and more captivating while bringing out the real emotions of the characters.


Works Cited

Ang, Lee. Life of Pi. FOX 2000. 2012.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2001.

September 25, 2023

Life Literature



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