Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kon-Tiki (2012)

Kon-Tiki / Kon-Tiki. GB/NO/DK/DE © 2012 Nordisk Film Production AS / Filmlance International / Nordisk Film & TV Fond [copyright details to be confirmed]. PC: Recorded Picture Company and Nordisk Film Production AS and in cooperation with Filmlance International and Roenbergfilm. PC: Jeremy Thomas, Aage Aaberge. D: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg. SC: Petter Skavlan. DP: Geir Hartly Andreassen. PD: Karl Juliusson. M: Johan Söderqvist. ED: Per-Erik Eriksen. VFX: Lars Erik Hansen - companies: Fido, Gimpville, Storm Studios, Important Looking Pirates, . S: Baard H. Ingebretsen, Tormod Ringnes. Casting: Jannecke Bervel. Detailed in the credits: - Crew Norway - Crew Sweden - Crew Bulgaria - Crew Malta - Crew Thailand - Crew Maldives. A Nordisk Film press screening of a 2K DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Samuli Kauppila / Heidi Nyblom-Kuorikoski at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 10 April 2013.

The cast as edited in Wikipedia:

Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen as Thor Heyerdahl
Anders Baasmo Christiansen as Herman Watzinger
Gustaf Skarsgård as Bengt Danielsson
Odd-Magnus Williamson as Erik Hesselberg
Tobias Santelmann as Knut Haugland
Jakob Oftebro as Torstein Raaby
Agnes Kittelsen as Liv Heyerdahl

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Arri Alexa Plus, Zeiss Master Prime and Fujinon Alura Lenses, Red One MX, Sony NEX-FS100 - Source format: ARRIRAW, Redcode RAW - Cinematographic process: Codex - Aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

From the production information: "Half a century ago, young Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl became one of history’s most famous men with the Kon-Tiki voyage, an astonishing journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft. But this is not the whole story."

"A handsome and charismatic figure, Thor developed a theory that Polynesia had been settled by peoples travelling east from South America, not west from Asia as previously thought. No-one in the scientific community took him seriously, to say nothing of having it published. After an American professor jokingly told Thor to try sailing from Peru to Polynesia on a balsawood raft, Thor realized that this is what he must do. He decided to prove his theory by sailing the legendary voyage himself."

"Christening his raft ’Kon-Tiki’ after a sun-god, Thor set sail from Peru along with five daring crew, none of whom knew each other. Only one knew how to sail. Though he was afraid of water and couldn’t swim, Thor was willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to prove himself right…"

"Thor and his crew frequently reported home by radio, and the Kon-Tiki expedition became an international media phenomenon. People around the globe followed the drama taking place across the Pacific. In a sense, it became the world’s first reality show. Would they succeed in reaching their goal, a small archipelago in Polynesia? Or die trying?"

"Kon-Tiki is a personal story with the world as its stage, beginning as Thor sails to the remote paradise of Fatu Hiva in the South Seas with his new bride, Liv. Determined to escape civilization, the couple live as natives for a year in great beauty and danger until disaster forces them to flee. From his days on the island, Thor sees evidence leading him to his new theory of ancient migration."

"Thor travels to New York to gain acceptance for his views, but no one believes in his theory. Thor realizes he will have to prove it. Though he has a fear of water and can’t swim, he decides to build a balsawood raft based on ancient drawings and sail it from Peru to Polynesia. Everyone continues to claim this is impossible, but Thor puts together a fearless crew. He builds the raft from nine balsa logs lashed together with hemp rope, names it ‘Kon-Tiki’, and sets sail. The only modern equipment they have is a radio, and Thor navigates by the stars and the Pacific currents."

"We follow Thor and his crew through raging maelstroms, shark attacks and treacherous waters. Slowly but surely they find peace, harmony and a new understanding on the open sea as they become one with Nature. Over three dangerous months, Thor and his crew experience a physical and mental transformation: they leave Peru in suits and arrive in Raroia as the world’s first hippies."

"This film is about a man who starts out cataloging Nature in an attempt to understand it, but ends up surrendering himself to it in his quest for truth. We witness how Thor, through sheer willpower, proved his theory right and became a popular hero across the world. But we also witness the price that he and those around him had to pay."

"Thor's epic voyage was spectacular and captured the public imagination. He loved the thrill of endeavor, and opened the world’s eyes to both the harsh and serene beauties of the natural world. His documentary of the journey won an Oscar, and his book was translated into 70 languages and sold over 50 million copies around the world. Thor’s ideas and achievements continue to inspire today."

"Kon-Tiki spans Norway, Polynesia, America, Peru – and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a story about choosing adventure, about daring to stand up for what you believe in and simply going for it, even when everyone says it’s impossible. It is an incredible journey that forever changed the men who took part in it."

Wikipedia on the Kon-Tiki expedition: "Kon-Tiki had six men on its crew, and a pet parrot named Lorita. Crew members included Thor Heyerdahl, Erik Hesselberg, Bengt Danielsson, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby, and Herman Watzinger. All were Norwegian except for Bengt Danielsson, a Swede. 
    Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002) was the expedition leader. He was also the author of the book and the narrator of the story. Heyerdahl had studied the ancient people of South America and Polynesia and believed that there was a link between the two.
    Erik Hesselberg (1914–1972) was the navigator and artist. He painted the large Kon-Tiki figure on the raft's sail. His delightful children's book Kon-Tiki and I appeared in Norwegian in 1949 and has since been published in more than 15 languages.
    Bengt Danielsson (1921–1997) took on the role of steward, in charge of supplies and daily rations. Danielsson was a Swedish sociologist interested in human migration theory. He also served as translator, as he was the only member of the crew who spoke Spanish. He was also a voracious reader; his box aboard the raft contained many books.
    Knut Haugland (1917–2009) was a radio expert, decorated by the British in World War II for actions in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage that stalled what were believed to be Germany's plans to develop an atomic bomb.
    Torstein Raaby (1918–1964) was also in charge of radio transmissions. He gained radio experience while hiding behind German lines during WWII, spying on the German battleship Tirpitz. His secret radio transmissions eventually helped guide in Allied bombers to sink the ship.
    Herman Watzinger (1910–1986) was an engineer whose area of expertise was in technical measurements. He was the first to join Heyerdahl for the trip. He collected and recorded all sorts of data on the voyage. Much of what he recorded, such as weather data, was sent back to various people, since this area of the ocean was largely unstudied.
    The last living crew member, Knut Haugland, died on Christmas Day, 2009 at the age of 92."

I was an avid reader of Thor Heyerdahl's books as a boy, I have seen his film Aku-Aku about Rapa Nui / Easter Island, and I have visited the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, but this is my first cinematic encounter with the Kon-Tiki adventure. I look forward to seeing someday Heyerdahl's own original Kon-Tiki film, the documentary which fascinated André Bazin.

I like the sense of adventure and the sense of wonder in the new, fictional movie, the most expensive Norwegian film production to date, making splendid use of digital effects.

The screenplay is well written to heighten the drama and the suspense of the adventure. There is the threat of being sucked into the maelstrom at Galapagos, and the goal is to catch the Equator current on time. There is the danger of the ropes that hold the logs together being torn. The pet macaw parrot Lorita cuts the thread of the balloon needed for the telegraph. The tomato soup and the shark repellent cans get mixed. A shark catches Lorita, Thor kills the shark in anger, and the blood attracts a shoal of sharks. The Kon-Tiki raft catches the Equator current on time, but the greatest danger is still ahead: the Raroia reef, the site of many shipwrecks.

Kon-Tiki and its crew survive and prove the possibility of Heyerdahl's theory, but it is Heyerdahl's marriage which gets shipwrecked. "You were always heading for the unknown", writes Liv, the explorer's wife. "In you I loved most what took us apart. You must always be sailing towards the sunset."

The adventure takes place in 1947, and the trauma of WWII is still present. See the remarks about Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby above.

The Kon-Tiki adventure is placed in a period of history, but equally central is the aspect of timelessness - the connection of the contemporary explorers to the ones that first made the trip thousands of years ago.

The illuminated jellyfishes at night. The shoals of sharks. The magnificent schools of whales. "They are bigger than us." The cosmic view of the space, the star constellations, the moon, the Earth which is actually an Oceania. Like The Life of Pi, Kon-Tiki catches overwhelming, sublime visions of nature via the latest digital visual effects.

But the most poetic image in the movie is the shadow of the bird after months at sea.

I have nothing to complain about the digital visual effects, but I am disappointed by the weak pastiche of the 16 mm footage. It does not look like 16 mm but it is in black and white, in the Academy ratio, and of weakened resolution. Why didn't you use the original Heyerdahl expedition footage? At least during the end credits?

While the VFX is fine the visual quality has otherwise an obvious digital look, more so than in The Life of Pi.

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