What kind of a traveller are you? Do you Google the life out of your next trip? Read a hundred reviews of the hotel you’ll be staying in, Street View the place and draw up an itinerary that programs every half hour of your vacation time? Or do you give into impulse, pack at the last minute and, as Elsa in Frozen sang, ‘Let it go’? No matter what your preferred mode of trotting around the world is, the thumb rule is that most trips are rendered memorable by the unexpected. Here are five real life epic trips gone wrong, trips that did not go as planned, and the equally epic films on them.
127 Hours (2010)
A cocksure 28 year old hiker gets his arm wedged under a boulder in the deserted Blue John Canyon in Utah. None of his friends or his family know where he’s hiking, and after five days without human contact, his only chance at freedom is self-amputation with a dull knife. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston, Oscar winning director Danny Boyle takes us into the deepest recesses of the human survival instinct. Be warned, it’s graphic. Audience members fainted during a screening of the film at the Toronto Film Festival. But it’s also life affirming in the best sense of the word.
Kon-Tiki is the name of the Inca Sun God. It’s also the name of the raft that Norwegian explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl piloted across the Pacific Ocean in 1947 from Peru to Polynesia. Yes, a raft. Not a ship. Not a boat. To make matters even more interesting, he couldn’t swim. Why did he do this? To prove his hypothesis that contact between the South America and Polynesia was possible in the pre-Columbian era. Heyerdahl set off on an almost 5000 mile expedition with just five crew members and a parrot for company, and on, a gentle reminder, a raft. It was a bumpy ride, full of sharks and storms and no navigational technology. In 2012, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg turned it into an Oscar nominated film that is a testament to the spirit of discovery.
Grizzly Man (2005)
Grizzly Man is simply put, one of the best documentaries of all time. It’s based on the life and times of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell who actually lived on a bear reserve in Alaska to prove his point that human interaction with grizzly bears was safe. As it turns out, this was not true. Werner Herzog, working off 100 hours of actual footage that Treadwell shot, brings his signature contrarian point of view and Bavarian accent to the proceedings. Grizzly Man gave me more sleepless nights than The Blair Witch Project. Enough said.
Into The Wild (2007)
Sean Penn’s directorial debut is based on the real life story of Christopher McCandless; an extreme idealist who felt that modernity was a corrupter of the soul. After his graduation McCandless burnt his credit cards, gave away all his money and set about winging his way through Western America. He kept the all-important journal documenting his moves but was ill-prepared for the harshness of nature and eventually starved to death in Alaska. In 1966 John Krakauer recreated McCandless’ journey through a book which caught the fancy of the beatnik generation and McCandless became something of an icon. Perhaps because, despite his naiveté, he remains one of the most relevant representations of material disenchantment and the urge to venture into the unknown. Penn’s film is a must watch. It also features a superb soundtrack by Eddie Vedder, the lead vocalist of the band Pearl Jam.
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Brad Pitt, looking like the very epitome of Aryan beauty, plays Heinrich Harrer an Austrian climber who wanted to conquer the Nanga Parbat peak in the Himalayas. While he and his team were attempting it, World War II broke out. They were taken prisoners by the British and sent off to a POW camp in Dehradun. Harrer and a teammate managed to escape and somehow made their way into Lhasa in Tibet where the then 11 year-old Dalai Lama engaged Harrer’s services as a tutor. He went on to spend seven years in Tibet. Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film on Harrer is sometimes simplistic but it remains a potent true story of the East and the West colliding.
The next time things don’t go as planned on your trip, take heart, you are in some stellar company!
An Associate Producer with the digital platform Film Companion, Kalpana is addicted to movies and can no longer tell if she is in one or watching one or writing about one. She blogs at www.ladymiddlebrow.wordpress.