Old-school adventure on high seas
KON-TIKI Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Starring Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Agnes Kittelsen, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jakob Oftebro, Tobias Santelmann. Club, limited release, 114 min In 1947, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl led a 6,900km expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands. In contrast to prevailing ethnographic theories of the time, the adventurer believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in the pre-Columbian era. In order to prove this theory, his vessel, the Kon-Tiki, was constructed from indigenous Peruvian balsa wood in a style recorded by illustrations by Spanish conquistadores.
This post-war expedition would capture the public imagination and would spawn several bestselling books and an Academy Award-winning documentary. And now it’s a lovely, rugged, yet polished, drama.
The cast and crew behind Kon-Tiki took the trouble to simultaneously shoot two alternative versions of the film: one in Norwegian, one in English. The effect is odd.
There is occasionally something equivocal and halting about this new(ish) dramatisation of Thor Heyerdahl’s famous expedition. But it’s far more baffling to consider that, despite the English language cut, it has taken more than two years for Kon-Tiki to secure a release in the UK and Ireland.
Perhaps the devil is in the sometimes-dodgy details. Rather frustratingly, the film features certain glaring historical inaccuracies, most notably the unfortunate
Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen as Thor Heyerdahl
casting of Thai extras in place of Polynesians. But it remains an aesthetic triumph: its open sea scenes were genuinely shot in the open seas. The mostly Maltese skies are exquisitely azure. The period details – costume, equipment, décor – are postcard perfect, even when representations of the six-man crew are tainted by dramatic license.
It is, moreover, the kind of good-looking, classy adventure picture that is seldom sighted in the cinema these days. They’ve even got a parrot.