Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi was a huge bestseller several years ago, which inevitably made it a target for a Hollywood adaptation. But a series of directors came and went from the project, probably because the fantastical story includes a lot of filmmaking challenges, from incorporating flashbacks to showing a young man trapped on a lifeboat with a 450-pound tiger. M. Night Shyamalan and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were both considering the adaptation before Ang Lee came on board in 2009, and now we've finally got our first look at how Lee will handle the material, with this image from the film (via Criterion Cast). You can click on it for a larger version.

There are a lot of unrealistic and surreal things happening in that shot, from the size of the tiger to the stark cleanliness of the boat to even the serene colors of the sky (that's newcomer Suraj Sharma pictured as Pi, by the way). This picture still gives no indication of how Lee will be telling the story, but the look is intriguing, suggesting he won't be aiming for realism but a kind of subtle lack of reality that reflects the first-person narration of the book. Without spoiling too much about what happens in Life of Pi, the book asks you to believe a lot of things that don't quite seem real, and it's a real question how Lee will translate that kind of power of the narrator into a film, where we're generally told to believe what we see.

Life of Pi isn't the biggest or most Oscar-baity movie opening later this year, but it's bound to be one of the least predictable. The movie opens December 21, right in the thick of the holiday season alongside Tom Cruise's One Shot, Judd Apatow's This Is Forty, and Kathryn Bigelow's untitled Osama bin Laden movie.

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