Kon-Tiki (2012)

Directed by Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg
Written by Petter Skavlan

I’m often on my own when I make my way to the nearest indie theater to catch the latest critically acclaimed foreign film. Of course I still go to the megaplex with friends and discuss the season’s blockbusters as well, so imagine my surprise when one friend of mine rattled off a list of films he was looking forward to this summer, and it included Kon-Tiki. I quickly questioned it: “Wait, the Scandinavian film that was nominated for Best Foreign Film at last years Oscars?” I was impressed, but it soon made a bit more sense when he told me that it looked like a great adventure film. My friend an I are fans of grand adventure. His enthusiasm made even more sense after I was able to see the film for myself, and saw the adventurous human spirit exhibited by Thor Heyerdahl and his friends on their incredible journey across the Pacific.

Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) was a Norwegian scientist whose time in the Polynesian islands had inspired within him a theory that was completely contradictory to all findings to that point: that Polynesia was settled from the East, from South America, and not from Asia as so many before have hypothesized. But such a contradictory theory was not well received and he failed to gain any support without “solid evidence”, his thesis unpublished. So Heyerdahl assembled a crew of men willing to go on a great adventure, what others deemed a suicide mission: to set off from the coast of Peru and drift the 5,000 miles to Polynesia on nothing more than a Balsa wood raft constructed using only ancient means.

What the filmmakers have delivered us here with the fictionalized version of the true story of Heyerdahl and Kon-tiki is the story of the test of faith, which is quite remarkable given its scientific significance. Science and faith are often found at odds with each other in modern culture, but with Kon-tiki, we see just how close the relationship between the two can be. Both are methods of seeking the truth, trying to find the true inner workings of life, both capitalize on the inherent sense of curiosity within the human constitution. Rønning and Sandberg beautifully explore this relationship with the built in suspense and adrenaline of the encounters at sea, and impending doom of the doubtful crew. They also do it with wonderful cinematography and subtle use of special effects.

The setup included in the first part of the film is definitely convenient, as it hurries through the semantics of the trip, the background that pushed our hero to attempt this brash expedition, but I can forgive the film this for allowing us a little more time to spend at sea, and it provides us with the information we need to truly appreciate what goes on in the middle of the Pacific. And what does go on is a bit of an amalgamation, bringing together scenes of exhilarating suspense with scenes of meaningful bonding and even plenty of almost whimsical comedy to lighten the proceedings and give the viewer a moment to catch their breath. Everything is densely packed together and presented with full effect.

The high age of exploration may have already passed, the world already mapped out, but the confines of the human imagination, of accomplishment remain uncharted. The sense of curiosity found within the human spirit affords us the opportunity not only to explore the physical, but also the metaphysical; we can explore an idea or a concept and utilize the adventurous spirit of the truth seekers. The film explores these concepts beautifully, bringing the viewer to the edge of the world, in the middle of nowhere, to show us what it means to be brothers, to co-exist on this planet, and to further humankind’s knowledge, intellect, and connection with nature and its past. This is a film about nature, and in fact about human nature, and how they are forever interconnected. I left the theater a little more enlightened, a little more inspired, and with a much greater sense of adventure and appreciation of the powers of the world that surround us daily, and have always been there.

***1/2 – Great


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