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Life of Pi 3D (PG)

When I read Yann Martel's highly acclaimed book Life of Pi a couple of years back, I was captivated by the story and thought at the time it could make a stunning film – if there was a way of doing it justice.

Director Ang Lee has managed it, and the press preview I attended saw a full Leicester Square cinema captivated by the story, the cinematography and intriguingly by the impressively realised 3D experience.

Described as "an epic adventure of magical realism", Life of Pi tells the story of a young Indian boy, named rather embarassingly after a French swimming pool, who changes his name to Pi while at school to sidestep the micky-taking of his peers.

His family run a zoo based in India, and while the early part of the film sets the scene with charm and style – charting particularly Pi's growing search for spiritual truth via Hinduism, Christianity and Islam – it really comes to life when they all set sail for a new life in Canada, accompanied by many of the animals. When a great storm descends, Pi is catapaulted into a battle for survival at sea on a rowing boat ... alongside a ferocious Bengal tiger.

The ensuing journey is both thrilling, moving and deeply engaging, as well as an immersive cinematic experience. Yes, inevitably there is plenty of CGI but it is handled so deftly, and realistically, it never detracts from the story. And the 3D has been done so that a) it genuinely adds to the experience of watching the film and b) you aren't left with stinging eyes and a headache afterwards.

First time actor Suraj Sharma puts in a stunning performance as Pi, and the rest of the cast do an excellent job in keeping the viewer engaged, entertained and really caring about the characters.

The film explores some fascinating questions about what it means to be human, about the search for spiritual truth and meaning in the world, and about our instinct for survival and longing for hope.

Damaris are offering a range of free resources for download from www.damaris.org/lifeofpi including video clips from the film, and a range of options for groups: Film, Food and Fun, using food and drink recipes and quizzes; Scene Setter, for groups to explore the film as a piece of art, and the themes behind it; Thinking Film, taking a deeper look at the philosophical ideas; and Reel to Real, using experts to probe questions about hope, truth and faith in the film.

Life of Pi goes on general release across the UK on 20 December.

Russ Bravo

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