Saturday, February 23, 2013


A Call to Adventure                                  
by Mark Dispenza

Norway's official Oscar entry is a true-life celebration of human ingenuity and a call to adventure.

Kon-Tiki is a sure crowd-pleaser with its Hollywood-style period production values, the beauty of its ocean cinematography and its depiction of a world of possibility and challenge that seems to elude us today.

Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen stars as Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian zoology and geography specialist who spent a number of years studying the islands of Polynesia and its inhabitants.  He arrived at the National Geographic Society in New York City following the second world war, seeking funds for an expedition to prove a theory that defied conventional wisdom.  

Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen

Heyerdahl believed that Polynesia was settled not from Asia, which was widely accepted at the time, but from Peru.  He proposed to build a raft using the Peruvian balsa wood technology of the time and sail it across the Pacific to the island of Raroia.  

It's important to realize that knowledge of Pacific Ocean currents seemed to disprove Heyerdahl's theory outright.  Coupled with the fact that he did not take to water easily and had little to no knowledge of boats, the idea that he could carry out and survive such a journey was highly unlikely at best.  I hate to admit it, but I would have been one of the financiers who initially wrote Heyerdahl off as a nutcase.

But like many of the explorers who push the boundaries of human knowledge, he was unflappable and determined.  He assembled a small group of friends and experts who might presumably make up for his weaknesses in ocean navigation, and they set off on their adventure with the whole world monitoring their progress by radio.  In August 1947 they arrived at their destination, and our assumptions about the world were challenged once again.  

Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg are the Norwegian directing team best known internationally for the Penelope CruzSalma Hayek vehicle, Bandidas.  The script is by Petter Skavlan, who until now was known as a writer of documentaries, which makes Kon-Tiki a natural entry point for him into the world of feature film scripting.

Kon-Tiki makes for a fun time at the movies and a reminder of the magic of fearless forays into unknown worlds of possibility. It's a reminder we're sorely in need of today.


  1. Not really new material.

  2. " I hate to admit it, but I would have likely been one of the financiers who initially wrote Heyerdahl off as a nutcase."

    Why be reluctant to admit to being rational? Hindsight isn't available when we make decisions; we must make them based on the information we have at the time. This works both ways ... there are a lot of people out there (by "people", I mean right wing and libertarian ideologues) who ridicule Solyndra and use it as a rationale against any investment in the alternative energy sector ... these people are far more foolish than those who were reluctant to support Thor Heyerdahl, even though Heyerdahl succeeded and Solyndra failed.

  3. P.S. Heyerdahl was mostly wrong: