Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Kon-Tiki: From Peru to Polynesia, the Hard Way
1947 memories of WWII were still fresh, especially in the once occupied Norway.
However, the reckless courage of a Norwegian explorer would inspire not just
his homeland, but generations of adventurers around the world (reportedly
including American test pilots and astronauts).
Thor Heyerdahl and his crew set sail from Peru to Polynesia without any
modern technology in Joachim Roenning & Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
naturally restless, the time Thor Heyerdahl and his first wife Liv living among
the Marquesas is quite happy. During this
period, Heyerdahl becomes convinced the South Pacific islander’s original
ancestors ventured east from Latin America rather than west from Asia. Yet, the academic establishment dismisses his
theory (sadly not excluding the fuddy-duddies at the Brooklyn Museum). Having
absolute conviction in his research, Heyerdahl sets out to prove it, by sailing
over 4,000 nautical miles from Peru on a balsawood raft, using no modern
instruments, except a radio to inform the media of their progress.
Heyerdahl recruits a crew his countrymen for his dubious mission, including a
dying-on-the-inside expat engineer and a conscience-plagued veteran of the resistance. They also have a parrot. The plan is pretty simple. Launch the Kon-Tiki into the Pacific and hope
the currents carry it to Polynesia. Of
course, those waters are far from empty.
Heyerdahl’s crew will contend with sharks, whales, and the greater
dangers of stormy weather and dwindling supplies.
in both English and Norwegian versions, Kon-Tiki
is old fashioned in a good way. It
celebrates rather than apologizes for the daring-do of Heyerdahl and his
mates. These are not average men, but
they are unquestionable mortals.
Watching Roenning & Sandberg (best known for the stirring war drama Max Manus) present their courage and camaraderie
without hipster irony is quite refreshing.
Kon-Tiki also looks
great, particularly the shark and whale sequences. The clarity of the underwater cinematography
is quite striking as is the sense of scale.
Frankly, this is the perfect film for viewers intrigued by Life of Pi’s premise but put-off by its
is well worth noting Kon-Tiki was
produced by Jeremy Thomas, whose name in the credits means something to
discerning viewers, having shepherded ambitious films like The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and 13 Assassins through development to art
house screens. Similarly, Kon-Tiki is an international production
that is large in scope.
Nonetheless, it is easily accessible, not merely
because of the English dialogue (which the Norwegian actors handle relatively
well). This is a classic sea-faring
adventure, vividly rendered by a talented cast and crew. Recommended for general audiences,
particularly those who fondly remember Heyerdahl’s bestselling book and 1951 Academy
Award winning documentary, Kon-Tiki opens
this Friday (4/26) in New York at the Paris Theatre uptown and the Landmark
Labels: Scandinavian Cinema, Thor Heyerdahl