Review: The Navigator – A Medieval Odyssey
Blu-ray & DVD: The Navigator – A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
A lot of the films that have had an ‘effect’ on me, were viewed late at night, alone, after my parents or partner had gone to bed, and normally on BBC 2. Films that are unavailable to watch, or so expensive to buy that you simply can’t afford them (Vice Squad anyone?). I was lucky with Vincent Ward’s The Navigator, I bought a copy off Amazon back in the day, and it is so grainy I only managed 10 minutes before turning it off. So seeing Umbrella Entertainment was releasing this film did excite me quite a bit, knowing the great effort they put into their releases, and of course it is brilliant.
It’s difficult to explain this somewhat surreal dream-state film. Made in New Zealand (in fact it’s the first Australia-New Zealand co-production) it tells the story of a group of people living in 14thcentury Cumbria, The ‘Dark’ ages; a time so completely foreign to us that it could have given the makers free reign to go all out bonkers. But instead we have a story that may be a boys dream. Or the truth.
Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) is nine and may be psychic, he seems to succumb to a fugue state where he has visions of the future, literally. His brother Connor (Bruce Lyons), has been travelling outside the village (something that rarely happened in the 1300’s. Small groups of people would live together and 95% of them would never leave the boundaries of that village), and returns to bring news of the plague.
Griffin tells of his ‘dream’ to dig a tunnel deep into the bowels of the earth in an attempt to find ‘the far side of the world’ where they must make an offering to God to stop the plague from entering their village.
As they begin their journey the film morphs from grainy monochrome photography to colour, and the end of the tunnel is present day New Zealand. We continue to follow Griffin and a small group of terrified Medieval men as they search for a church.
I think The Navigator is a ‘love it or hate it’ film, and I don’t think you have to have a love of Medieval history to ‘get’ it because it’s more about atmosphere than history.
A huge addition to the film is the music soundtrack by Davood Tabrizi. Which is as booming as Blade Runner with the addition of Monk like chants. This adds so much to the feel of the story, as you see them racing to a church in modern day New Zealand this music is a constant reminder that their feet are firmly placed in 1302. In desolate Cumbria, where God and hell are real and second sight is believed.
This is a truly beautiful film to look at and hear, and the story itself is a stand alone one, as there literally is nothing else like it that I have ever seen.
A wonder of a movie, and a must buy for any film fan.
- AUDIO COMMENTARY WITH ACTOR PAUL LIVINGSTON AND PRODUCTION DESIGNER SALLY CAMPBELL
- PATH OF THE NAVIGATOR: VINCENT’S ODYSSEY (40 minute interview featurette with Director, Vincent Ward)
- IMAGE GALLERY
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