It’s not very often I have a “major motion picture” about ocean sailing to look forward to seeing. Must be the end of days or something, because now there are two. Usually, of course, these movies are pretty terrible–I’m thinking The Dove or Waterworld, for example–but it’s seems there a chance both the films I’m waiting on now may be pretty darn good. Kontiki, which opened in Norway last year and was a huge hit there, is now in a slowly widening release over here and the early reviews are promising. The trailer, at least, makes it look very palatable.
It helps, of course, that I was a big Kontiki nut when I was a kid. I had a lavishly illustrated edition of Thor Heyerdahl‘s famous book recounting his epic 1947 voyage across the Pacific from Peru to the Tuamotus on a balsa-wood raft, and I studied it very closely. (I particularly liked the section on shark wrestling.) Though Heyerdahl’s imaginative theories about South Americans settling Polynesia are now largely discredited, he is still something of a mythic figure to sailors of a certain vintage and many others as well. If nothing else, he pioneered the historical voyage re-creation industry, which is still going strong. (See, e.g., the recent circumnavigation of Africa in a recreated Phoenician vessel.)
The other film, All is Lost, due to come out in October, is more contemporary, but seems more challenging. Robert Redford plays a singlehanded sailor whose Cal 39 hits a container in the Indian Ocean, and the film, which has little or no dialogue and only the one character in it, tracks the consequences of this misfortune.
The clip available online, as you can see, is pretty ridiculous. (Can you believe how calm it is as he climbs that mast, in spite of the huge storm on the horizon, which for some reason he couldn’t see from the deck?) But the film was well received at Cannes, so I’m keep my fingers crossed.