OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Kon-Tiki

An expedition to adventure

Poster art for Kon-TikiFrom the directors of the World War II resistance epic Max Manus – which became Norway’s biggest hit at the domestic box office in 2009 – the stirring epic Kon-Tiki recounts one of the great real-life adventures of the twentieth century. In 1947, explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl began an 8,000-kilometre voyage across the Pacific on a balsa wood raft with a rather motley and inexperienced crew, in a dangerous attempt to prove his theory that Polynesia was populated by settlers from South America, rather than Asia as widely assumed by the scientific community. While such films as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Jan Troell’s The Flight Of The Eagle have depicted similar expeditions as grand follies undertaken by half-crazed visionaries, Kon-Tiki renders Heyerdahl’s quest in the heroic mold of a David Lean epic.

A risk-taker since childhood, Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) is one of the last examples of the scientist as adventurer. Unable to find a publisher to print his thesis about the migration of early civilizations – much of it devised during his stay on Fatu Hiva, an island in the Marquesas – he hatches his plan to cross the Pacific on a raft, just like the ancient Incas before him. Unshakeable in his determination, Heyerdahl simply refuses to give up – despite the fact that the scientific community openly mocks him, he can’t find funding for the voyage, his first recruit for the raft’s crew is a somewhat stocky refrigerator salesman, and he himself can’t actually swim.

A bold and inspiring epic, Kon-Tiki features extraordinary photography by Geir Hartly Andreassen (who also shot Max Manus). The visuals are suffused with a palpable sense of awe at the beauty of the natural world; seldom has a film made the night sky look so full of possibility or the ocean surface seem so teeming with life. The episodes when the crew must deal with sudden thunderstorms, a shark attack, and an encounter with a playful whale that escalates into a near catastrophe, are breathtakingly executed. Kon-Tiki is one of those rare movies that restores our sense of wonder.

– Steve Gravestock, Toronto International Film Festival
 

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