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Kon-Tiki (2012) Dir: Joachim Renning & Espen Sandberg

Since I was a child I have always been fascinated-by outlandish adventure stories; man vs the elements, man vs nature, man vs fish, man vs food. The very real physical and psychological struggles a character in a story is forced to confront, often against his wishes and often unexpectedly. In these tales, great fears – both real and imagined- must be overcome and characters are humbled and punished by forces greater than themselves; forces that are threatening, unpredictable and often beyond human understanding.

These battles are battles for our souls, our existence, our very reason to exist. In these stories, we see ourselves and our struggles within ourselves to engage with people and with our natural world. The value of life and death as well as it’s essential meaningless are illuminated.

One of the first essential male adventure movies I viewed as a boy was Jaws where the local chief of police in a small-town American community is forced to face not only his worst fear; water but a somewhat intrusive, Great White shark. And so the film functions not just as a terrific suspense film but enhanced by these character details. The face off between men and shark becomes an existential one.

Sharks feature prominently in the new Norwegian film Kon-Tiki based on a true event in which the famed adventurer Thor Heyerdahl attempted to sail across the Pacific Ocean from South America to Polynesia in a balsa wood raft. Heyerdahl’s theorized that people from South America had settled in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times and so built a raft using pre-Columbian techniques and set out with five men from Peru in April 1947 to prove his point.

Madness, eh? Probably but it makes for a great tale and possibly a great film. The film’s trailer features a prominent amount of man vs shark footage that looks quite stunning and terrifying. This is enough to piqué my curiosity about Kon-Tiki. That and figuring out how directors and film-makers shoot at sea, The logistics of it seem crazy to me and so any film set on water or mostly on water, I am usually drawn to and try to admire or appreciate the technical skill on display.

One overlooked high seas tale I caught by chance on television recently was Ridley Scott‘s unjustly ignored White Squall (1996), a quite magnificent production from a technical standpoint as well as a stirring, emotional tale of survival and male friendship that just happens to be like Kon Tiki, based on a true story.

At this time of writing, there are only a handful of release dates for the film in Europe with neither Finland nor Ireland & the UK on the release schedule it appears. The film has been entered as Norway’s entry into the Best Foreign Language Category at next years Oscar’s so hopefully the wider world will get a chance to see this epic film on a big screen and not just on DVD in the near future.

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