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THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY


STARRING: Bruce Lyons, Chris Haywood, Hamish McFarlane, Marshall Napier, Noel Appleby, Paul Livingston, Sarah Pierse

1988, 92 Minutes, Directed by: Vincent Ward


Description: Mystical tale of a tiny 14th-century English hamlet during the devastation of the Black Plague. Young Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) has visions of a pilgrimage through the center of the earth. Griffin's older brother Connor (Bruce Lyons), who has just returned from the dying, diseased cities of England, leads this great journey to an alien world of metal beasts and towering ramparts (revealed as a modern New Zealand city) to make their offering to God. Throughout, Griffin's haunting flashes of the future taunt him with clues to a death in the party, but they don't reveal who.
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Not to be confused with the mid-1980s Flight of the Navigator kiddies’ movie effort, The Navigator is an entirely different proposition altogether.

This New Zealand sci-fi epic became a huge hit at art house film festivals across the world. The story involves a tiny village being threatened by the Black Death in the mid-14th century. A young boy who has prophetic visions of a "celestial city" sees a possible way out for the village to be saved from the coming plague: they must place a spire on a distant cathedral before dawn. A small group of people (including the boy) sets off in search of this cathedral . . .

The Navigator gets off at a shaky start. It took me a while to get used to the accents of the various characters and thus the dialogue is difficult to follow at times. However, one should stick to The Navigator. The movie improves drastically, so that towards the end one is completely engrossed and transfixed by onscreen events. Also, despite (or maybe because of) its unusual structure, The Navigator works quite well as a thrilling time travel tale - so don’t be intimidated by the film’s art house roots.

As religious parable The Navigator reminded me both thematically and to a degree structurally of Tarkovsky’s last film, The Sacrifice. Its message of the need for spirituality is however implied and never explicitly rammed down one’s throat. It only comes to one after viewing the movie.

Wholly original, The Navigator put New Zealand-born director Vincent Ward on the map as a new talent to be taken note of. Ward also worked long on the pre-production of Alien 3 as writer and director before leaving due to creative differences. After seeing this movie one can only marvel at what movie that would have been had the money bosses left him alone! Ward’s later efforts includes Map of the Human Heart and the "troubled by creative differences" Robin Williams starrer, What Dreams May Come.

Special note should also be made of the excellent photography by Geoffrey Simpson in both color and black & white, and the soundtrack by Iranian composer Davood Tabrizi (who lives in Sidney).

 


Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: Not to be confused with kiddies' movie of similar title. Stick with this powerful and clever story about time travelling medieval peasants - the end will leave you reeling.


 



 

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