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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 16, 2013 at 11:30 AM

‘Kon-Tiki’ shot twice — in two languages

The Norwegian movie “Kon-Tiki” may ring a bell — the story of explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific in 1947 on a balsa-wood raft, it was Oscar-nominated earlier this year for best foreign-language film (it lost to “Amour”). But what I didn’t know, and maybe you didn’t either, is that it was filmed twice, simultaneously — capturing each take first in Norwegian, then in English. A New York Times article describes the process: after a day of shooting, the cast (led by Norwegian actor Pal Hagen) and directors (Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg) would sit down over dinner and, with the help of a British dialogue coach, translate the next day’s scenes in English.  The directors said that the decision was made for economic reasons, to better market the film worldwide.

“It is unusual, but it makes sense,” Mr. Sandberg said of the Norwegian-English compromise that resulted. “It’s only five million Norwegians, and we have to take that into consideration when we make expensive movies.” Filming only in Norwegian is fine, he added, “when we make these little Dogme things, but when we go out and make something expensive like this, it’s just a reality we accept.”

Fascinating story, which points out that Hollywood films of the early ’30s were often shot in two languages (Paramount even had a multi-language-version studio in Paris), but that the practice was largely abandoned by the mid-30s due to expense. Needless to say, the version of “Kon-Tiki” that we’ll see in Seattle is the English-language one, opening May 10 at the Egyptian.

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