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Norway’s most expensive feature film to date, this recreation of the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition, one of the most famous feats of 20th century adventure, certainly looks handsome, with beautiful location work from snowy Norway to the exotic Maldives.
Nominated for the Best Foreign Language title at last year’s Oscars, directing partners Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have a eye for memorable visuals, whether the shadow image of a mighty whale shark appearing under the boat or the crew of the Kon-Tiki staring in awed wonder at a sky full of stars as if they were the only people left in the universe.
As for the human element, this is very much Heyerdahl’s story, pursuing his goal of sailing across the pacific on a fragile balsa raft with a determination that overlooks the threat to both his life and his relationships. What is less clear is why his companions, three fellow Norwegians and a Swede, are so willing to sign up for this ostensibly mad venture. There are hints that Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann), one of the real life heroes of Telemark whose efforts thwarted the Nazis’ attempts to create an atomic bomb, may be haunted by his experiences of war, but beyond one brief scene, this is never really addressed.
The script takes its biggest historical liberties with the character of engineer Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), somewhat controversially presented as someone completely unsuited to spending 100 days bobbing about on the Pacific, but this does inject a bit of interpersonal tension into the party of blond and bearded Scandinavians.
Directors Rønning and Sandberg seem to enjoy messing about in boats, though. They have been signed up by Hollywood to helm the next instalment in the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise.
What happens: Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) risks his life to prove his theory that the Pacific islands were colonised from South America and not Asia by sailing a balsa wood raft 5000 miles from Peru to Polynesia. Dependent on winds and currents to carry them west and shadowed by man eating sharks, Heyerdahl and his fellow adventurers find that they are being swept towards the killer maelstroms to the south of the Galápagos Islands,
Best quote: Herman Watzinger: "I’m 32 years old. A fridge salesman. With a broken marriage. And I’m really desperate to be with you on that raft. I know it can be dangerous — but if you only knew how dangerous the fridge business is."
Who for: Anyone who thrills to the recreation of real life adventure.
Quick review: A lovingly crafted tribute to the last of the great Norwegian adventurers and the wonders of the natural world. Kon-Tiki won the audience award at the 12th Inverness Film Festival and deservedly so.
Kon-Tiki is screened at Eden Court, in its English language version, from Friday 9th to Thursday 15th January.