These days, it seems like 3-D is an afterthought thrown onto just about every movie. But sometimes, it makes sense — and Life Of Pi is one of those times. This is one of the most visually stunning movies you'll see this year (or maybe even this decade), to the point where you'll literally be jumping out of your seat during the more intense scenes, of which there are many. If you've read the book, you know it's a whirlwind of a story, and it's actually very surprising how well it translates to the screen. Ang Lee, as usual, combines just the right amount of all the ingredients to make a wonderful final product. Seriously, we dare you to remain calm while watching this movie.
But eventually, we did manage to calm down — just enough to interview screenwriter David Magee and Irrfan Khan (who plays the adult Pi and narrates the film; you might recognize him from Slumdog Millionaire) about the process of making this incredibly sweeping, heart-wrenching cinematic event. No blatant spoilers here, but if you're a stickler, maybe bookmark this until after you've seen it.
Irrfan Khan, actor
How closely did you work with Suraj Sharma [younger Pi]?
"I was called to the set after his parts were all done, so we didn't see much of each other. If it had been necessary, Ang would have told me."
Are you surprised by how well the younger and older character flow together, despite you two not having worked together during filming?
"Yes! We even look alike! It's all Ang's doing; he chose us and he put the film together so well."
Why were you drawn to this film in the first place?
"Just the name Ang Lee is enough, and the book, as well. But as the narrator, you're not playing just one part of the book, you have to make the whole book your own, including the philosophical questions — questions that seem to have nothing to do with you at first. But when you're playing a part, you start investigating those issues and identifying them. The book, and the script, nudged me to look at God in a different way."
How has this story changed your view of religion?
"It hasn't changed; it can't change because it wasn't so different from the one in the story. But the thing is to realize that we, as humans, have a tendency to create our own cages. That's a kind of confinement that somehow makes us feel secure. It can be physical, intellectual, or spiritual confinement. Human beings want to explain the intangible, they want to understand, and they don't feel safe until they do. But that understanding can become a cage, it can limit your reality and the truths of life. Human understanding and perception is limited, we've been created by nature but we have this faculty to look back at nature and try to define it. It's such an absurd and interesting thing! The whole universe has created less than a speck on this planet, and that speck is trying to understand the mystery of the whole universe."
Did you ever feel, as the narrator, that you wanted to convince the audience one way or another regarding the two possible stories?
"You always have that weakness. It's a trap. Animal instinct means that each person wants to convert people, to make his or her group bigger. But as an artist, as an actor, I realize this and I don't want to do that. I want to allow both sides of the audience to draw conclusions for themselves. If I start pushing them to believe one thing or another, my experience doing the film is less fun, and there's less exploration. It almost becomes propaganda. As a storyteller, you must be able to live both sides of any story. A person who is a believer, or a non-believer, or a person who just believes in destiny — everybody can find the story working for him. All these things are left mysteriously in the film. It's up to you how you look at it."
You seem really enthusiastic about this film...do you enjoy talking about it?
"Sometimes, when you have a film that you like to talk about, you never get bored in the interviews. But, just like acting, if you're playing a part that you don't feel connected to, you have something to explore. I'm not a very good talker. I can't formulate my thoughts that well, but with a really great movie I manage."
Photo: Courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures.
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