Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kon Tiki (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Kon-Tiki" is a new film by Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, based on the real life voyage from Peru to Polynesia by Thor Heyerdahl and taken from his 1948 book of the same name. Heyerdahl was an ethnographer and adventurer from Norway who was obsessed by the theory that South Americans had actually discovered the Polynesian Islands in pre-Columbian times. Heyerdahl bases his deduction on an inhabitant of the islands who says his origins came from the sun. Heyerdahl also adamantly believes that ocean passages from South America to the Pacific---some 5,000 miles--- were not formless obstacles but actual water roads as dependable as well travelled highways and while watching the film, it becomes difficult to dispute him.

The film is beautifully shot by Geir Hartley Andreassen. As it is the most expensive Norwegian film yet, it is well worth it. Against the recommendations of many advisors, the filmmakers decided to shoot the film in the open waters of the Maldives , rather than use digital effects.

In many respects, "Kon-Tiki"  is an echo of old fashioned filmmaking. Pål Sverre  Hagen stars as Thor, the explorer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Peter O' Toole with his technicolor blue eyes and sunflower blonde hair. Heyerdahl gets his mates  together consisting of Herman (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) a refrigerator salesman, Erik (Odd-Magnus Williamson) an artist, and three free-wheeling bohemians: Bengt, (Gustaf Skarsgård), Knut (Tobias Santelmann and Torstein (Jakob Oftebro). Heyerdahl is part zoologist and part swashbuckler but his role is never outrageous in tone; he is the voice of reason throughout.

This is a man against nature story with rich color and tense apprehension. Although reminiscent of countless films from "Robinson Crusoe" in several incarnations to "Castaway" and "The Life of Pi", this film's crisp and deceptively simple visuals never stall.

Sharks are the  visceral and concrete antagonists in the film, so much so that the film almost equals "Jaws" in intensity if not in scope. There is one scene where poor Herman takes a spill and the ocean is a dangerous bloody red.  The music swells. Suddenly an open Halloween mash of teeth are revealed only to miss the raft in the nick of time.

Although this is no horror movie, there are instants of maritime Gothicism. Case in point, is the sight of Herman dripping in shark blood, right out of a Hammer vampyre classic. This is one bi-polar sea although the visuals are steadily gorgeous with the great Pacific rolling out in sheets of brilliant blue. Also worth noting, is the story it tells in images of Thor shadowed in a 1940s metropolis and wanting to break free. The skyscrapers here are depicted as alien and faraway stars which could just as well be figments from The Great Gatsby's lost civilization.

"Kon-Tiki" is an unpretentious and simply told story of vivid adventure. As a Lawrence of Polynesia tale, it puts ordinary man in the realm of Tin-Tin's Herge,  laced with a bit of Benchley's  salty suspense.

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