The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey – Vincent Ward – 1988


The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey CoverOriginal title: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Year: 1988
Directors: Vincent Ward
Duration: 90 min.
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Drama, Adventure

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

I like things about time travel and I like weird films. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey combines both and more in what ends up being a bit of a combination between early Bergman (i.e. Seventh Seal or Virgin Spring) and Time Bandits: surreal, fantastic, intense, crazy and absurd. For the first 85 minutes anyway. Also be aware that this is NOT a sci-fi film or a time travel film! Sadly there are a few flaws too. One of them is that genre assignments seem to be all over the place, which I guess is why hardly anyone has ever heard of it. People say time travel, so sci-fi. They’re wrong. They say thriller, wrong again. Mystery, partially wrong. Fantasy maybe? Also I don’t think there are any well known actors in this film. Still, I think it has every right to be classified as a hidden gem. If you’re into strange and dark stuff, The Navigator will get you from its opening scene. It starts off with a strange vision-like unfolding of events. It doesn’t make much sense. Then we end up in medieval times in some random small British (?) village during the time in which a plague was spreading across Europe. It killed about a third of the continent’s population in just a few years. This village has been spared up until now, but silly as simple folks are, they think they must bring some offering to a church or pray or whatever to remain safe. Yeah, that’s not how that works, but what did they know.

A little boy from the village has had a vision. They must dig a hole to the other side of the earth to make an offering at ‘the’ big cathedral. Instead of questioning this madness even for a moment, a group of villagers start to dig a tunnel. And surely enough they end up on the other side of the earth. This makes sense, as is pointed out by a kind villager, because if the earth is flat and they live on the shitty side, the other side must be all kinds of wonderful. Yeah, okay. The other side looks suspiciously like a modern day city though. Just imagine all the coal and tar it takes to keep all those lights lit! Oh well. After leaving the fat guy and his wooden statue on the wrong side of the road near a highway restaurant (which is just cruel, by the way) the rest of the group set out to find the big cathedral where they will attach a piece of copper to the roof. Because that will surely keep them safe. But they believe it will, and they just dug though the earth, so who am I to rid them of their hope?

The Navigator

The religious themes in The Navigator reminded me of The Seventh Seal. In that film it seems perfectly normal to play a game of chess with Death. In this film nobody questions a kid’s vision to dig a tunnel through the earth. On the other side, the modern day people do not seem to mind the medieval weirdo’s either. The journey itself is a little like the crazy journey undertaken in Time Bandits. I mean, traveling through a flat earth into the future only to find a church in an attempt to avoid death sounds like a thing the pythons could’ve done..

Now for some of the not so great parts. The kid in this film is of the type that has only one setting: SHOUT-MODE! That gets pretty annoying after a while. I’ve read the accents are a bit weird too, but meh, what do I know. I’m no expert on 12th century British accents so it didn’t bother me at all. What did bother me a little was that during the film some of the characters felt a little one dimensional, but in hindsight that’s probably a nice little detail. But back to the good stuff, the acting was pretty good even if the kid was shouting a lot. I really liked the visuals too, and how they switched between black&white and colour. And then when it all seems over, the film in its final scenes tells you what it’s really all about – if you pay attention.

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