Kon-Tiki was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination itself, in the Best Foreign Language category back at the 2013 ceremony, and has now finally made its way to British shores. Set in 1947, we delve into the life of valiant explorer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen), who is so hellbent on proving his theory that the South Americans could have journeyed to Polynesia on a mere raft, that he intends on mimicking the epic, 8000km journey across the ocean. Persuading a few friends and fellow adventurers to join him, they build a simplistic, unembellished vessel, and set off on a potentially life-threatening expedition.
The film was filmed simultaneously in Norwegian and English, with the same actors. While there will be many who favour the latter, so as to avoid subtitles, it does devalue the project somewhat. The dialogue appears very unnatural for starters, while the picture feels as though it has been Hollywoodised, to appeal to a broader and wider demographic. While that’s entirely understandable, with box office figures still such a prominent aspect of the film industry, sadly the artistic integrity of the filmmakers is compromised as a result. The overtly cinematic approach, with sentimental music and corny, cliched speeches is undoubtedly detrimental in the early stages, though as the narrative becomes more inspiring, the melodrama does feel less out of place.
Meanwhile, the sense of isolation is well-judged, with a series of long shots highlighting this raft’s solitude, while the various shots from below enhance the sense of vulnerability. Our entry point is an intriguing one also, as Thor has such an infectious enthusiasm, though his ambition can work against him – leading to a quite volatile protagonist, impetuous and insouciant on occasion. Hagen also does a commendable job in displaying that ruthless nature, and while we have seen the actor play villains in the past – such as his role of the chief antagonist in In Order of Disappearance, you can tell that he is capable of getting in touch with that unswerving, assiduous side of his demeanour, all the while remaining charming and charismatic throughout.
While requiring little effort to get immersed in this tale, such is the strength of this compelling story – if there is one thing to take away from proceedings, it’s that it is worth catching this in its original, more authentic form to fully get the most out of the experience. The only other thing we seem to have learnt, is that it appears we’ve discovered where hipsters originated from, as this 1940s raft features a lot of topless, bearded men. Enjoy.