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Thursday, 16 May 2013 23:00

'Kon-Tiki' goes Hollywood but is an amazing tale

'Kon-Tiki' goes Hollywood but is an amazing tale
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Espen Sandberg, Joachim Roenning
  • Dates: Opens May 17, 2013

The true story of the balsawood raft known as the Kon-Tiki boggles the mind. April 28th, 1947, under the direction of Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, he and five crewmen set sail from Peru fervently hoping the ocean currents would push them the 4300 nautical miles to the Polynesian Islands.

Heyerdahl would thereby prove his theory, discounted by just about every other scientist at the time, that settlers could have arrived in Polynesia 1500 years before from the east, South America, not the west, Asia. To honor the Incas, whom he believed made that voyage, Heyerdahl called his 45 by 18 foot raft Kon-Tiki after an ancient Incan sun god. After 101 days of trials and triumphs, on August 7th, the Kon-Tiki crew smashed into the Raroia Reef of the Tuamotu Islands, confirming Heyerdahl’s theory, though since largely discounted by anthropologists.

Shot in six different countries over a mere 59 days on a miniscule $15 million budget, the visuals are lovely, though over 500 computer-generated effects shots add little to the human drama. In that regard, “Kon-Tiki” goes slack too often in its Hollywood approach, that is, a superficial treatment of important issues. At the Palm Springs Festival premiere, the two Norwegian directors, Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning, explained that they took liberties with the characters, not wanting six heroes on the raft. Therefore, the audience’s surrogate, the engineer Herman asks questions and expresses the fear that most ordinary individuals would feel. But events lack the profound insight such a spectacular adventure should offer.

Performances are serviceable and the music works with instruments that echo conch sounds that suit the ocean context. It is an amazing story, and anyone who visits Oslo’s Kon-Tiki Museum will come away duly impressed after seeing the original raft and realizing what these men accomplished.

“Kon-Tiki” competed in the final five selections for the Oscar for Bet Foreign Language Film last year and for a Golden Globe. The film showing here is in English because the directors shot two versions at the same time, one in Norwegian and this one in English at the insistence of producers who said American audiences don’t like reading subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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