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During the 20th century some individual achievements so captured the popular attention as to become iconic: Lindberg's flight across the Atlantic, Hillary and Norgay's conquest of Everest, Roger Bannister's four minute mile. Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 voyage across the Pacific was one of these events. His book, Kon-Tiki, sold tens of millions of copies, and his 1950 documentary won an Academy Award, as much a recognition of the feat as the film.
Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have now decided to put on the screen a dramatized account of Heyerdahl's expedition. But the obvious question is how can you make interesting the story of six men confined to a small wooden raft for 101 days? In fact by comparison to the exploit it recorded, the original documentary came across as rather bland, precisely because of such limitations. But this new film is anything but tame, and succeeds in combining striking photography of the adventure itself with a compelling look at one man's quest to show that "it can be done."
The strength of the picture is that it situates the voyage within the context of Heyerdahl's struggle to get the scientific and financial support to try out his theories. He had speculated that Polynesia was settled by Inca voyagers who had used the prevailing currents to drift across the Pacific on rafts similar to the one he would build. (He proved this possible, although DNA testing suggests that Polynesians share a predominantly Asian heritage.)
Heyerdahl had developed this premise much earlier, but after World War II, he made serious attempts to secure the backing for a voyage that would test his theories. Not only did he encounter opposition from those who felt that he was wrong, but even more often he was dismissed as a fanatic with a suicidal plan.
Eventually he did manage to scrounge some backing, including private loans, help from the Peruvian authorities and supplies from the U.S. Navy. Perhaps more importantly, he found five companions who had confidence enough to put their lives in his hands. All were Norwegian except Bengt Danielsson, a Swede with an interest in migration. Erik Hesselberg was the navigator. Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby, both heroes of the Norwegian resistance, were the radio experts. Herman Watzinger was an engineer who helped design the raft, and who recorded much of the voyage's scientific data.
Although he took along modern equipment, Heyerdahl was concerned that the raft itself should be constructed only from materials that were available in ancient times. Accordingly the raft was constructed from logs tied together with rope, surmounted by a thatched cabin and a large cloth sail. The raft itself was about 45 by 18 feet (13.7 by 5.5 m), and the cabin about 14 by 8 (4.2 by 2.4 m). The crew sailed from Callao, Peru, on April 28, 1947 and arrived in Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7.
The film succeeds by contextualizing these 101 days at sea against Heyerdahl's struggles to get the expedition underway. Although the inevitable storm and the equally foreseeable shark attack have their moments, the movie similarly attends to the relationships among the expedition's six members, their level of bonding to Heyerdahl as leader, and his own relationship with a wife who wanted to be supportive, but who found the risks unacceptable. It establishes the overall context by its early sequence dealing with Thor's honeymoon stay in the Marquesas, where he began to discover the apparent Inca connections that led to his theories.
In the central role of Thor Heyerdahl, Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen must carry the story, and he does. His re-creation of the historical character is convincing as the embodiment of determination, not quite obsessive but coming close, as he plans, argues and cajoles to try to turn his project into a reality. As his fellow Norwegian crew members Odd Magnus Williamson as Hesselberg, Tobias Santlemann as Haugland, and Jacob Oftebro as Raaby are equally credible figures: young, heroic, and willing to give Heyerdahl their trust. Playing the only non-Norwegian in the group, Gustaf Skarsgård as Bengt Danielsson is a little detached, but perhaps even more intellectually committed than the others to what they are about. For contrast and drama, the filmmakers apparently took liberties with the character of Herman Watzinger, played by Anders Baasmo Christensen. Christensen does well with the part given him, although the real-life Watzinger was almost certainly stronger and more competent than the movie shows him. Given that she must play an ambivalent role, Agnes Kittelsen as Liv gives a very effective performance as Thor's wife and the film's only prominent female character.
Gorgeous photography and great production values set Kon-Tiki off. The Pacific Ocean scenes were actually shot in the waters off Malta, the tropical ones in the Maldives and Thailand, with other locations in Norway and the U.S. used as appropriate. It is a real accomplishment that even with the limited space of the raft cinematographer Geir Hartly Andreassen never lets it become visually boring. Going from the micro to the macro, he manages to keep interesting also the vast empty spaces of the ocean, which emerges as a living character in its own right, often peaceful, sometimes petrifying, always powerful.
It must have been a temptation for the directors and principal screenwriter Petter Skavlan to fictionalize Heyerdahl's exploits and to create a stunning action/adventure tale on the lines of A Perfect Storm or White Squall. Thankfully they recognized that Heyerdahl himself was a character larger than life whose daring voyage became an extension of himself and his ambitions. In doing that they keep alive the iconic figure that he was, and give audiences some appreciation of how the sheer willpower of one individual can produce deeds that capture the imagination of the world.
How I love to watch history-telling like this! What talent in both
writing and film making it is! This is both epic and important.
This is the story about the amazing world famous Kon-Tiki trip crossing the pacific on a balsa-raft just to prove this happened in ancient times, made by the makers of great Max Manus.
The trip, taken on the basis of an idea of the explorer Thor Heyerdahl, was completely ludicrous and no one believed it could be done. and how could a trip like this be told better than by Heyerdahl himself in the documentary made during the trip.
Back in 1947 this was just the story the world wanted to be told after the 2nd world war and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The documentary film from the trip later won Oscar (1951), and the book was translated into 70 languages, and sold more than 50 million copies world wide.
Finally we get to see the trip dramatized as it should be. And the result is really an amazing and epic film which holds two hours of explorer-ism, excitement and awe. I think we really get to imagine how it was to be 6 persons floating on an uncontrollable raft in the middle of nowhere for more than hundred days. The bore, the awe of discoveries, the fear of weather, sharks and whales. The psychological toll, the friendship...
It's a great story and a great film which will make new generations pick up the book with the same name, before they watch the original documentary. Beautifully filmed, well played, even down to Heyerdahl incredibly bad English pronunciation. Not all is accurate. There's been a debate around the premiere about making Herman Watzinger such a wimpy character, when we actually was a Norwegain 100 m record holder and a strong guy with good looks, but the writers found the story needed heart, and not only bald and crazy feeling-less young men. I agree. Over 100 days on a raft is at least 90 days of boredom.
Thor Heyerdahl himself made this trip to prove his idea, which no one would believe, and later got famous. He made the trip though he was not only not able to swim, but actually afraid of water, can you imagine! And it also tells the story of those left behind, wife and kids.
This is the most expensive Norwegian film production ever, and the story is a Norwegian sacred explorers story, as good as they come, changing world history. Thankfully the film floats as good as the raft, and is well wort ha watch. Great manuscript, beautifully filmed, good handcraft.
The film comes in both a Norwegian and an international (English) spoken version, which gives the movie a possibility to be shown all over the world. And it will. Treat yourself to an insane, but epic trip, and get to be an explorer yourself. This is great storytelling! It loses one of 10 stars due to the irritating (though factual) English pronunciation of Heryerdahl. Not necessary to re-experience that to make a good story.
This movie is seriously good.
I'm not saying this just because I'm Norwegian and extremely proud that my country managed to produce this amazing adventure. Kon-Tiki is definitely one of the most original, well- written and fun films I've seen this year.
It's the 1940s. Without spoiling the story (which is real by the way), we are invited to follow Thor Heyerdahl as he gathers a crew of overly confident Scandinavians attempting to cross the Pacific on a balsa wood raft. All in the name of science and a boyish thirst for adventure! This attitude is understandable; after enduring the misery of WW2, little seemed more tempting than escaping to faraway exotic lands. Bravery or stupidity? In either case, viewers can look forward to one hell of a boat ride.
What I adore about Kon-Tiki is the presentation of the raft's surroundings. The Pacific Ocean is just as magnificent and beautiful as it is dangerous and merciless, and this dynamic is perfectly balanced. Peaceful waters and clear skies suddenly give way for dangerous sea- creatures and storms mighty enough to tear the old-fashioned raft apart. Kon-Tiki is simply grand. At times my adrenaline rose, my heart started pumping, and I started lusting for adventure myself - just by watching.
Another strong point is the cast. The actors do a brilliant job at depicting the slightly eccentric yet adventurous Scandinavians far away from their Nordic comfort zone. Thor Heyerdahl is particularly well portrayed with his dreamer-like attitude and awkward English skills. Although I would prefer more emphasis on character development, Kon-Tiki make them just interesting enough for viewers to care for them.
Kon-Tiki is such a delight to watch, because it's original, different and not your typical Hollywood adventure flick. No, the plot is not complex. It has no twists or turns, and Kon-Tiki certainly doesn't contain the amount of drama you'd expect. And this is what makes it good - the film is all about the sheer excitement of the adventure. Of course it isn't perfect, but for a Norwegian film, I'd say it holds its ground rather strongly.
I honestly haven't had this much fun with a film for a long while. If you're lucky, Kon-Tiki might show up on a festival or international cinema near you. In that case, do watch it.
As of 1/4/13, Kon Tiki is on the shortlist of 9 for Academy Award
Foreign Language film; list of the 5 final nominees is expected next
Beautiful cinematography...including magnificent scenes of whales & sharks circling the raft.
Character studies of Thor Heyerdahl & his companions on the journey are intelligent subtle portrayals. Thor is one driven man, from almost drowning in childhood to landing on the beach on Roraia, Indonesia. Thor spent ten years with his theory that Polynesia was settled from Peru; not from Asia, the settled hypothesis at the time. Final proof came via the 1947 voyage on a raft using the same 1500 year old techniques of navigation and raft construction. While this may sound a bit dry, it is not. The passion of the participants is palpable. Each has their own reason for going on the journey; most simply falling under Heyerdahl's charisma. (Heyerdahl's 1950 documentary won the Academy Award, and remains the only Norwegian winner of an Academy Award to date.)
Though not cast based simply on physical looks (per the co-directors), several are magnificent specimens of blond 1940s fit men...and their bonding.
Every scene was filmed first in Norwegian, then in English; (US release of the English version seen is expected by the Weinstein group later in 2013.) Filming was 59 days in six countries. Audience reaction of the PSIFF screening was loudly appreciated followed with Q&A with the co-directors.
I don't speak a lick of Nordish but my god this movie is excellent.
Everything is perfect, great cast, fantastic adventure, flawless direction, smooth direction, swelling enveloping music and a great sound effects.
There are few movies like this is existence, about the human spirit and what it means to have a real adventure.
Also i must say the best and most surprising part about the movie is the acting, not only are they perfectly suited to the characters they are the characters.
Hats off to the Special CGI Effects studio for their fantastic work.
for 16m this movie is a real surprise and if your reading this yes, go see it RIGHT NOW!
The plot is about the greatest Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl who
changed the course of history about the origin of Polynesians. Thor,
along with 5 desperate fellows, set out an 101 day-voyage on a raft
across the Pacific ocean to prove his scientific analysis before the
world. They avoided all sorts of modern mechanical equipment and
crossed almost 8000 kilometers in the vast sea just like primitive
people having only the faith of Kon-Tiki, the Inca Sun-God. Acting
seems so realistic and engaging to depict this true adventurous history
:))) Some camera shots appear aesthetic while score sounds great.
However, only flaw to me is the lack of crisis in the script___7/10___
NB: now willing to watch the original Kon-Tiki documentary film, that won Oscar in 1950, directed by Thor Heyerdahl himself during their expedition___:))))
A nominee for Best Foreign Language Picture at this year's Oscars,
Norwegian import Kon-Tiki chronicles the journey of adventurer Thor
Heyerdahl and his incredible journey some 5,000 miles across the
Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft. Though
comparisons will inevitably be drawn between this film and Ang Lee's
Life of Pi, a fellow Oscar nominee, they are very different beasts and
are both films deserving of attention.
If nothing else, Kon-Tiki (the name of the aforementioned vessel) adds to the impressive list of superb films from Scandinavia this past year. From Headhunters (one of my favourites of 2012) to the overlooked Snabba cash (Easy Money), fare from this region has never been more accessible or memorable.
So now comes Kon-Tiki, the first Norwegian film to score both a nomination at the Golden Globe and Academy Award ceremonies, and it's rather easy to see why. This sweeping journey appeals squarely to Hollywood sensibilities, twisting up an epic, historical adventure about overcoming the odds, with human drama. Though this intentional slanting may take some of the complexity and grit out of the film in the end, praise is abundantly deserved for all those involved.
Chief on that list is filmmaking duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, best known previously for the Luc Besson-produced Bandidas with Penelope Cruz and Selma Hayek, who craft something lavish and visually sumptuous out of this trek, despite the hurdle of being endowed with a budget of just $16 million.
By recreating Heyerdahl's raft, shooting out over the deep and using special effects only as infrequent enhancements rather than a crutch, these two lay the authenticity on thick and in doing so generate tension and wonder (sometimes simultaneously) like you wouldn't imagine. Kon- Tiki, though never overtly stealing, mirrors the most effective aspects of films like Cast Away, Jaws and Mutiny on the Bounty.
When Rønning and Sandberg aren't capturing sweeping, stunning shots of the Pacific (and the tiny boat at its mercy) they are letting the camera rest on the diminutive aspects of the voyage, at least so when compared to the grandness of what's around them. The ropes lashing together the massive balsa wood beams strain and groan in the water, summoning us back to an earlier scene where two sailors warn Heyerdahl that a raft of that nature will inevitably break apart with the movement of the logs. Sharks silently circle and the boat slowly crumbles as the wood absorbs seawater. These quiet moments are as unnerving as anything you'll see on the big screen.
Likewise, there are grander, more elaborate moments that drip with tension all the same, as when storms hit, men are cast overboard, and once again sharks, though proving to be one of the lesser threats in the scheme of things, use their mythos alone to chill to the bone. If not as complex as it could have been, Kon-Tiki is certainly never dull.
The cast of unknown actors are also strong, even if by the time the credits role their sporting of Grizzly Adams-like beards makes identifying between some of these brave men difficult. Leading the way as the driven Heyerdahl is wait for this one Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, anchoring (no pun intended) the film as a man intent on proving his settlement theory to sceptical scholars. Joining him is engineer (and refrigerator salesman) Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) navigator Erik Hesselberg (Odd Magnus Williamson) ethnographer Bengt Danielsson (Gustaf Skarsgård) and two soldiers acting as radio men Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby (Tobias Santelmann and Jakob Oftebro respectively).
Together, crammed together like sardines, they make the 101-day journey, each bringing not only their respective skill-sets but demons as well. Those versed in Heyerdahl's novel or the documentary of the voyage (the winner of the 1950 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature) may cry afoul at some of the changes that have been made in service to crafting a more dramatic effort, particularly tweaks to the Watzinger character, but they will in no way impact how most will respond to Kon-Tiki.
Though not as weighty or viscerally lasting as some fare that pops up in the Best Foreign Language Film category, it is, however, infinitely accessible to anyone who usually turns their nose up at that particular segment of the ceremony. Kon-Tiki is a strong import, fascinating and thrilling in equal measure and a film that is just as much about the perils of nature as it is about the gratification that comes with conquering it.
I sought out this Norwegian film only after I learned that this was
nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. I only had a
cursory knowledge of Thor Heyerdahl as a Norwegian explorer who wrote
about his adventure at sea. However, I did not know any details at all
about him or his journey. So I welcomed this opportunity to finally get
to see it.
The film began with Thor as a child when he fell into the icy lake and almost drowned. However we later find out that that accident and his inability to swim did not deter his adventurous spirit. We fast forward to Thor and his wife Liv on Fatu Hiva, a Polynesian island, in 1937. There he learned the belief of the islanders that their ancestor Tiki actually came from the East (the Americas) instead of Asia as commonly assumed.
For several years, Thor tried to get his theory about Polynesian origins published but was repeatedly rejected. Therefore, he resolved to prove his theory by recreating Tiki's original ocean journey from Peru to Polynesia on a raft made of balsa wood (with strictly no modern materials).
It is just too coincidental that I am watching another ocean adventure just a few days after watching "Life of Pi." Kon-Tiki traveled the Pacific in the opposite direction that Pi did. It had an experienced though spare crew of 5, composed of two sailors, an engineer, an ethnographer and Thor, so it had a distinct advantage over the teenager and a tiger.
But maybe because I just watched Pi, maybe I expected to see so much more maritime misfortune than I did with Kon-Tiki. However, that sequence with vicious sharks had real heart-stopping suspense. I do have some misgivings about that episode with the whale shark, because it is not really the aggressive creature depicted in the film.
This was a straight-forward adventure film for the family. It may seem old-fashioned to some, nothing too controversial or strange as one can expect from modern European cinema. It was by no means boring, but I admit I felt like it lacked a certain edge while I was watching it. The crew members did not even have any significant conflict among each other and they were trapped on a raft for a hundred days! That may come across as unbelievable in these days of Big Brother and other "reality" TV shows.
I do hope I can find myself a copy of the 1950 Oscar-winning documentary about the real Thor Heyerdahl, his crew and their 101-day oceanic ordeal. That should be very interesting indeed.
What a weird coincidence that such a movie came out attempting for an
Oscar nomination the same time with Life of Pi, with both exhibited
many similar things about survival in the ocean, though the subject
matter in each film may be entirely different.
Anyway, even though I have not watched nor have any knowledge of the original, I am impressed with the way this film was made. It was pretty well-balanced with no major flaws in my opinion. Well acting performances by the cast were complemented by a high level of cinematography technique that made looked like the entire journey on the raft was really shot wide in the ocean. Like Life of Pi, there were certain marine animals that were infamously being shown from the real life account of Kon-Tiki, and the CGI made on the animals were so real you probably cant tell if those animals were fake.
Probably the major point of improvement that the film can work on is the lack of character development of the other participants in the Kon Tiki, aside from Thor Heyerdahl himself. I am not implying there was none, as we get to see Thor's mates conflicts happening from the start till the end, but I wish I could have known more why they decided to join and their background story. Understandably, with the time given the film had chosen to focus on Thor instead with a lot of plot material explaining why he had to venture into such a journey.
I was also curious if there were more that could be shown about a group of men enduring a raft journey across the ocean in +100 days. But overall, just by solely comparing the similarities, this is much better and believable than Life of Pi as well as a very satisfying movie experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As we all know, this film is about the legendary explorer Thor
Heyerdahl, and his crews epic journey through the Pacific ocean on a
balsa wood raft.
The directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg is known for making the movie, Max Manus, which was released in 2008. Max Manus is in fact, probably one of the best Norwegian films ever made. Now they're back with a new film, which beats their previous film down the boots.
This is a very extensive story, the filmmakers first and foremost had to work to simplify down to a comprehensible film format, without losing nerve of it all. Here they succeed exceptionally well! It's been a story of young people under the infinite universe, precisely in its allusive art, dramatic without overplaying, well recognizable human types and what they go through, without having to fuss with the clarity. And it is liberating, and humor sprinkled throughout.
The start of the film is nice and sets the grand tone. Heyerdahl is presented as a mule which dress dressed moving around New York looking for financial support. Here he meets Herman Watsinger, while the rest of the crew shows up in Peru. After half an hour the director pair Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg takes us out on the open sea. There will be drama, much of it is more dramatic than in Heyerdahl's own movie, as there is no advantage to have in mind.
The original Kon-Tiki expedition was so spectacular and so familiar, that it completely schematic belong to our national consciousness and the whole world.
Only that's an important element, now that the film will be sold both on the inside and outside. In addition, the directors, Rønning and Sandberg, uses a typical, well used internationally grip on the storytelling. The final five minutes, for example, is carried out in a un-Norwegian way. Which is good of course, as this helps the film to be very enjoyable.
People who already know the Kon-Tiki story very well, will notice some lack of details in the film, but don't you worry, the film still manages to keep everything that you've been expecting of it.
Now, that said, I enjoyed this film very much, and I do of course hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Overall rating: 10/10
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