February 13, 2013
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.