3 user 5 critic

On Top of the Whale (1982)

Het dak van de Walvis (original title)
A parody of anthropology, linguistics, and cultural imperialism. The film follows an unlikely team of linguists into the wilds of an ersatz Patagonia to study the last speakers of a dying ... See full summary »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A drunken sailor recounts the surrealistic odyssey of his life story to a murderous student.

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Stars: Jean-Bernard Guillard, Philippe Deplanche, Nadège Clair
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Two narrators, one seen and one unseen, discuss possible connections between a series of paintings. The on-screen narrator walks through three-dimensional reproductions of each painting, ... See full summary »

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Stars: Jean Rougeul, Chantal Paley, Jean Raynaud
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A story of two men drag-racing across the U.S. in a primer grey '55 Chevy. Dennis Wilson is the mechanic, James Taylor is the driver.

Director: Monte Hellman
Stars: James Taylor, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird
Four Seasons (1975)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The last collaboration of Artavazd Peleshian and cinematographer Mikhail Vartanov is a film-essay about Armenia's shepherds, about the contradiction and the harmony between man and nature, scored to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Director: Artavazd Peleshian
Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A surreal odyssey in which a melancholic maidservant crosses paths with a homicidal little boy, travels to a tiny island of pirates and encounters a man with multiple personalities.

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Stars: Hugues Quester, Anne Alvaro, Melvil Poupaud
Daisies (1966)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Two girls try to understand the meaning of the world and their life.

Director: Vera Chytilová
Stars: Ivana Karbanová, Jitka Cerhová, Marie Cesková
Mirrored Mind (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Renowned cyber-punk director ISHII Sogo strays from his roots, entering the realm of the subconscious with Mirrored Mind, a composed, contemplative and also a very personal film. Guiding us... See full summary »

Director: Gakuryû Ishii
Stars: Miwako Ichikawa, Yuki Inomata, Kou Machida
Klimt (2006)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.1/10 X  

A portrait of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, whose lavish, sexual paintings came to symbolize the art nouveau style of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Stars: John Malkovich, Veronica Ferres, Stephen Dillane
Biography | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese... See full summary »

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Tian-Lu Li, Giong Lim, Kuei-Chung Cheng
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The 'dreamer' is Jacques, a young painter, who by chance runs into Marthe as she's contemplating suicide on the Pont-Neuf in Paris. They talk, and agree to see each other again the next ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Bresson
Stars: Isabelle Weingarten, Guillaume des Forêts, Jean-Maurice Monnoyer
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Take a walk into the weird world of filmmaker Raul Ruiz as he takes us to Paris for a twisted ride. A man which shares four names and four personalities (which is the real one?) is the link... See full summary »

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Galiena, Marisa Paredes
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Director: Pat O'Neill
Stars: Joel Lorimen, Beth Block, George Lockwood


Credited cast:
Jean Badin ...
Fernando Bordeu ...
Herbert Curiel ...
Amber De Grau ...
Luis Mora
Ernie Navarro


A parody of anthropology, linguistics, and cultural imperialism. The film follows an unlikely team of linguists into the wilds of an ersatz Patagonia to study the last speakers of a dying language. That language apparently consists of a single word, which therefore means everything. Written by International Film Circuit <ifcplanet@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







| |

Release Date:

20 June 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

On Top of the Whale  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A parody of scholarly endeavors
5 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On Top of the Whale is a very strange film even by Ruiz standards. It's set in an alternate future in which Communist Republics have become the norm in Europe and they have places named after people like Malcolm X. A scholar meets a rich Communist who happens to know the last two people from an Indian tribe that is thought to have perished so he decides to study them and their language. It turns out that this language consists of about 50-60 words, each of which can be pronounced hundreds of different ways to change the meaning.

Trying to find meaning in a film like this one is a difficult thing. I look at it as a parody of anthropology and linguistics. The film isn't quite a comedy but it certainly has more humor than most art-house films. The scholar and his wife (who seems to be something of a scholar herself) seem to come to conclusions about the tribe that are somewhat dubious. Their methods often seem unscientific if not altogether absurd. For example, they seem to be think that their studies will have an influence on the things they are told by the Indians. When a young girl tells the female scholar that mirrors make women pregnant the scholar warns her not to repeat that because the Indians may incorporate this idea into their mythology. This is but one of many things that seems to mock the field of anthropology.

This film is made a bit harder to understand by the way language is used. Apparently the film is in six languages and the dialogue switches from one to another mid conversation fairly often. This isn't so bad when the language is one other than English but the source I got this from (VHS) didn't have subtitles for the English and everyone had accents that were hard to understand. Another odd thing about this film was Ruiz's choice to use a red filter about 50% of the time. I'm not sure what his purpose was with this but it didn't look great, especially with the already poor quality of the transfer. Still, Ruiz's usual flair for images was present in the non-filtered scenes and it wasn't bad looking overall.

On Top of the Whale is a challenging viewing experience and one that I believe it would take multiple viewings to really appreciate. As such, I didn't find it to be one of the most satisfying in his canon but it's still well worth checking out.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss On Top of the Whale (1982) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: