Director: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Screenwriter: Petter Skavlan
Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Runtime: 113 mins.
Australian release date: 11 April 2013
It takes either a brave man or a foolhardy one to embark on an eight-thousand-kilometre journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft, especially if he can’t swim and is afraid of water! This epic journey was undertaken in 1947 by a young Norwegian and five fellow adventurers with little sailing experience, in order to prove a theory that the Polynesian islands were settled by people from South America. To their credit, the co-directors of Kon-Tiki (a name for the Incan sun god), Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, have succeeded in bringing this epic journey to the silver screen.
In April 1947, Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Hagen) and his crew, together with a parrot and a stowaway crab, set sail from Lima on a raft built in an indigenous style based on ancient illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. Their few concessions to modern equipment were a radio, a sextant and their watches; they used the stars and the currents to navigate the raft on the long and dangerous journey to Polynesia. Despite encountering whales, sharks and violent storms, and having to overcome their doubts about Heyerdahl’s theory, they were determined to reach their destination in one piece. And it wasn’t all fear and seasickness; when the skies were blue and the sea was calm, they were able to enjoy the solitude and exquisite beauty of Mother Nature. Incidentally, although clothed in this film, in reality the men were nude most of the time, as recorded in footage filmed by the explorers for a documentary but ultimately not used as it was deemed too explicit. A great pity, for if this movie is anything to go by it would be some people’s idea of heaven on the high seas - miles from anywhere, surrounded by a bunch of blonde hunks!
Shot by Norwegian cinematographer Geir Hartly Andreassen, who has only one other feature film to his credit, Kon-Tiki is a visually stunning experience; it’s helped, too, by the seamless effects. The light and clarity are amazing, especially in scenes on the open sea when the raft is surrounded by nothing but water and various denizens of the deep; when whales surround the craft you can sense the combination of fear and exhilaration the intrepid voyagers must have felt. The journey captured the public’s imagination at the time - Heyerdahl’s documentary of the journey won him an Oscar and his book about the 101-day trip sold over 50 million copies. Kon-Tiki is a story which is as inspirational today and this fine film is a must for anyone who wants to share in the tremendous spirit of adventure that this voyage takes you on.