Susan Granger’s review of “Kon-Tiki” (The Weinstein Company)


Back in 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Hyerdahl decided to cross 4,300 miles of Pacific Ocean on
a huge balsa-wood raft called Kon-Tiki, named for the Polynesian sun god. Heyerdahl was determined to prove that, about 1,500 years ago, South Americans crossed the sea and settled in the South Pacific. His book about that perilous expedition has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated in close to 70 languages. His cinematic chronicle won the Best Documentary Oscar in 1950.

Norwegian actor Pal Sverre Hagen plays charismatic Thor Heyerdahl, whose blond/blue-eyed
physicality is reminiscent of Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia.” Financed by the Peruvian government, Heyerdahl and his brave crew of five men – four Norwegians and a Swede – spent more than 100 days afloat, encountering whales and sharks, along with treacherous storms, as a radio operator did his best to stay in contact – when the transmitter worked. While he did bring along a movie camera, Heyerdahl had no motor onboard and was resolute about building his raft using only the indigenous materials available to the original sailors, insisting that logs be lashed together with rope, not wire, despite the pleadings of one of his crew.

The Norwegian version of this new bio pic was nominated for this year’s Best Foreign Language
Film but lost to Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” Now, an English-language version is playing in local theaters.

Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg filmed in both languages simultaneously to appeal to the international market, utilizing a script written by Petter Skavlan. Each scene was shot first in Norwegian, then in English. Many years ago, when Hollywood first introduced sound, multiple language versions were more common than they are today. By the mid-1930s, however, dubbing and subtitles took over. In recent years, the most commercially viable dual-language film was Angelina Jolie’s Serbo-Croatian/English “In the Land of Blood in Honey,” set in Sarajevo during
the Bosian War of the 1990s.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kon-Tiki” is an adventurous 8. Astonishing!