The Film: Kon-Tiki – Norway
I was really looking forward to the potential of this film. I had read some things about the production when it was still in theaters and was excited to see the look of the film. But it’s always hard to watch a film when you have previous knowledge because no matter how hard you try, it leads to expectations.
What I expected was out of the window when they started speaking English in the first scene but the biggest hurdle for the film is that it states its motivations but does nothing to help you understand them.
Usually movies about a historical figure who does something brave and crazy are all motivation and very little exploration into the processes once it’s begun. This movie is all process and no motivation which leaves it feeling very dry and sadly, pointless.
The goal of real life explorer Thor Heyerdahl, as portrayed leaves you with the impression that science is enough of a motivation, and it just isn’t. Not at this level of stakes. Not when he’s sacrificing the future of his wife and children or the other men on the raft.
The chance to establish motivation happened at the very beginning when Tor was told by his parents to promise he never do anything risky again after nearly drowning in his attempt to retrieve something across a half frozen pond. The film cuts to a scene of him, as an adult, in an exotic country. At first I loved this because it recognized of the fact that we know, before we even hit play, that he will do something risky so why waste time building to it any further. It was interesting to not show the exact moment he made the choice to continue to have adventures. But then the movie continued in the same pattern, skipping over too many important decision making moments.
It’s one thing if he makes these decisions as a boy but when his wife tells him she hopes his children have a father, skipping over the deeper intricacies of these decisions makes him seem callous.
The same is true when he asks his fellow sailors to have faith that they will reach their destination. He offers them nothing but asks for blind obedience which seems irrational for his character. If he were either a man of science or of faith he would have offered them more of one or the other. Awed looks at the symbol of Kon-Tiki painted on the sail does not provide an accurate depiction of the way humans function in such intense circumstances. As such, the characters seems as though they were written by someone with Asperger’s syndrome.
For a person who is afraid of dying in water, as I am, I didn’t get a real similar impression from the crew at any point. Even from one of the crew who couldn’t swim, it came out more as awe than fear. This awe carried through their journey as an overarching feeling to the task they were undertaking as if they had knowledge of it’s future impact, but it lacked strong, interesting, motivated reaction to the details of their experience.
I often ask for films to not masticate their teachings for us but there is a difference between processing on our behalf and providing something for us to process.
The film states that the legacy of Kon-Tiki was the spirit of adventure after World War II which isn’t a feeling I’ve seen expressed before. Most of the perceptions I’ve heard through various sources World War II was the adventure and most people just wanted to be safe at home and get back into the life they were fighting to protect. But then maybe I’m misunderstanding their idea of adventure and discovery.
Or maybe the movie simply didn’t state to its fullest intention what the impact of the Kon-Tiki exploration really was. The voyage made newspapers and proved a scientific theory but those things just aren’t enough when you don’t show us the further emotional impact it has on the persons who fought so hard to make the events happen. They can’t be removed from something like this. I suppose this has a lot of do with where the film decided to start and end.
I would have been far more interested in starting with the construction of the Kon-Tiki far more satisfied had it ended further down the road where we could truly understand the impact. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying not to read too much into or modify an account of history by seeking these deeper motivations. Perhaps they were attempting to avoid Heyerdahl’s ethnocentric speculations. But there has to be a happy medium between creating melodramatic tales and presenting dry facts.
The film was made in open waters but there’s something about the style that doesn’t feel quite like it was. Although the layers of special effects once they’re in the water are amazing, there’s something not fleshy enough. Films like Cast Away and others have been able to touch on these notes in a more human way.
I also would have appreciated this film if it hadn’t been in English. The language was far too simple. It felt very much as though it was not being properly communicated. Apparently the US version was cut by 30 minutes and specifically filmed in English. Ugh. Whoever thought so little of US audiences clearly misunderstood the power stories have when they are in their own language. It wouldn’t, however, have saved it completely as a brief look into the facts shows the filmmakers have taken unnecessary creative license that in the long run doesn’t add anything — some poor decision-making all around.
You could try to watch the original version which was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Feature Film and is the highest grossing movie of all time in Norway. But there are direct sources which might fare better including the 1948 book about the expedition written by Thor Heyerdahl and the 1950 documentary about the expedition which was directed by him and received an Academy Award in 1951.
Ultimately, Kon-Tiki didn’t feel like the story of men who did something amazing for themselves, their families, the world. It felt like the story of the raft and sadly the emotional journey of balsa wood just isn’t interesting enough to recommend.
The Food: Caraway Dill Popcorn
I love unique flavors. The sort of spices and seeds that aren’t used in everyday cooking. Lavender was one of those exciting new tastes and caraway is another that I just don’t get to use often enough.
This tasty combination comes from the idea of an open-faced sandwich on rye bread with butter, dill, lemon, and cold shrimp. Minus the seafood.
- 1/4 cup corn kernels
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon dill
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the kernels. Place the popcorn in a mixing bowl.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the caraway seeds. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the teaspoon of butter, dill and black pepper. When it’s melted pour over the popcorn, mix to combine. Serve warm with some good cardamom coffee!
If you’re looking for a variant try making the popcorn as kettle corn by adding sugar to the kernels as it pops before adding the seasoned butter for a sweet and salty taste.