Ovations greet new ‘Kon-Tiki’ film

The applause was long and loud after the long-awaited film about Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition premiered at the film festival in Haugesund over the weekend. The film Kon-Tiki is the most expensive ever made in Norway, and its producers hope the critical acclaim will bode well for its financial success as well.

The new film "Kon-Tiki" is full of drama, scenery and special effects, and critics in Norway think it will be an international hit. PHOTO: Carl Christian Raabe/Nordic Film/Filmweb

The Norwegian critics, who often bash movies made in Norway, were nearly unanimous in their praise for Kon-Tiki. They called it “solid, daring,” and full of “good story-telling.” Reviewer Jon Selås of major tabloid newspaper VG also wrote that the film has “considerable inernational potential,” telling his readers that “it’s just to go stand in line, folks – it will be long!”

The film recreates “for our eyes,” another reviewer wrote, the bold voyage Heyerdahl and his crew made over the Pacific Ocean on the balsa wood raft they’d made, “and creates new admiration for the man who refused to let himself be stopped by warnings about being too adventurous.”

Still others called the film a “glossy” feast for the eyes with its scenery and drama. The film was shot in six countries including Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Malta, Thailand and the Maldives. It’s based on a script by Petter Skavland and produced by Nordisk Film Production AS and Recorded Picture Co of Great Britain, in cooperation with a string of co-production companies.

Norwegian actor Pål Sverre Hagen has the starring role in the film and bears a striking resemblance to the Kon-Tiki expedition leader Thor Heyerdahl. PHOTO: Carl Christian Raabe/Nordisk Film/Filmweb

It will open in Norwegian cinemas at the end of this week, following a special showing in Oslo to be attended by King Harald and Queen Sonja. It’s also on the program of the international film festival in Toronto in September, where it will be shown in the “Special Presentation” section.

That’s expected to help boost interest in international sales of the film not least in the US, where Thor Heyerdahl had a large following and where his own documentary of the Kon-Tiki voyage won an Oscar at the Academy Awards in 1951. The documentary has recently been re-released on DVD.

The new feature film has been in the making for the past two years, and is directed by the pair behind the highly successful film about Norwegian resistance hero Max Manus. Around 1.3 million Norwegians, in a country of just 5 million, streamed to cinemas to see that film and the directors hope at least half as many will go see Kon-Tiki. As newspaper Dagsavisen reported late last month, then they could boast the most-seen film this year and, noted newspaper Aftenposten, recoup the NOK 93 million invested in its making.

Kon-Tiki film stars Agnes Kittelsen and Pål Sverre Hagen, with directors Joachim Rønning (left) and Espen Sandberg. PHOTO: Filmweb

The film’s backers already were successful when seeking funding in Norway, other Scandinavian countries and in Europe. “We actually got money from everywhere we applied,” producer Aage Aaberge of Nordisk Film Production Norway told Aftenposten. “In Norway, Heyerdahl is part of the national heritage, and the book and documentary about the Kon-Tiki expedition made him world famous. That’s a big advantage when we now try to sell the film around the world.”

Heyerdahl’s role is played by Norwegian actor Pål Sverre Hagen, who won the part not just because he looks like Heyerdahl but because he’s considered a smart and clever actor who digs deeply into the characters he plays. Hagen said he did a lot of research and had long conversations with members of Heyerdahl’s family.

Among them was Thor Heyerdahl Jr, who has said his father had “a big ego.” He now hopes the film will finally give credit where credit’s due to his mother, Liv Coucheron Torp, who he claims inspired Heyerdahl and was the real adventurer of the two. Torp, played by Norwegian actress Agnes Kittelsen, first met Heyerdahl when she was just 18, then later at the University of Oslo. The two fell in love, married and immediately set off for the South Pacific island of Fatu Hiva in 1937. The couple later divorced but Heyerdahl stresses that his mother was a critical part of his father’s success. The film features their romance and move to Fatu Hiva, along with the expedition just two years after World War II ended, and Heyerdahl Jr said he was “relieved” and pleased when the film was finally shown.

“You can easily say that the film comes as close to the actual events in their lives as a film can,” he told Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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