Kon-Tiki (2012)

kon tiki65 years after his courageous voyage; 10 years after his death, Thor Heyerdahl’s legacy continues to inspire and fascinate. This time through a hybrid of sea adventure and historical drama in Kon Tiki — a film named after the wooden raft used in his 1947 expedition.

A mesmerizing epic set against the thick of post-World War II, this Oscar nominee [in best foreign language category] is a dramatization of the writer-explorer’s 97 days journey sailing from South America to the Polynesian Islands. In an attempt to prove his theory about South Americans being capable of migrating to Polynesia by sea; Thor (played by Pål Sverre Hagen) built a privately funded balsa raft, gathered a five-men crew and embarked from Peru. By using the same technology that would’ve been used in pre-Columbian times, he had hoped to disprove anthropological skeptics.

Yet to me… this film is more than just sprawling tribute to a grand Norwegian odyssey. It has been said that all exterior scenes of the ocean were captured in open sea (as opposed to interiors of a film set). This strategy paid off for directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg because the result, is visually rich and emotionally authentic. “And you’re going to spend the rest of your life chasing sunsets.” Thor’s wife wrote in a letter — indeed. Isolated and dehistorized, Kon Tiki captures Thor in a state of pre-famous existence and restless idealism. All thirst for adventure completely intact and willing to trade everything he has in exchange for whatever it is that he seeks.

This film is receiving polarized reviews internationally. Part of the problem may be that exposition begins on the vigor of elegant biopic and takes on the energy of an action-thriller, before it finally concludes in nostalgic sentimentality. But these things are mostly a matter of pre-conceived notions about narrative tone and limits of what a historical drama should, or ought to be. It would be prudent to withhold from such expectations. Rønning and Sandberg have done Thor Heyerdahl’s legacy justice.




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