A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2014 Jan 11, 10:28 -0800
Nial, you wrote:
"At least from a sailor's point of view. Right from the start I was asking myself "what the bloody hell is he doing now?" "
But some sailors ARE fools. And actually I think this is a flaw in the film "as a film". The character is too blank, and there is a natural tendency, maybe because of 'movie logic', to see him as a hero. But he's not a hero; he's just 'some guy'. He should have been portrayed by the script as more common, fallible, foolish, maybe even bitter and angry. Why, as one reviewer put it, is he out there by himself? Is he a misanthrope? Or is it just that he's such a drunk fool that no one would sail with him? If this had been "drawn" in some of the scenes, maybe having him beat his radio to death after getting liquored-up, the character and his actions would have more internal logic. That is, his illogical, clumsy actions would be in character. Unfortunately, this would break the fatalistic theory of the movie.
And you wrote:
"What a great time to learn celestial, when you can't go anywhere anyway."
Aha. Yes, this is an anachronism. As little as fifty years ago, most lifeboats were still real boats. You could sail them or at least row them. Some even had engines. That mobility, and the hostility of much of the world (whether enemies in wartime, pirates, or imaginary threats like mid-Pacific "cannibals"), implied that you had to navigate a lifeboat. They're not coming for you. You have to navigate to a friendly port. Lifeboats often came equipped with "lifeboat sextants". But for a modern lifeboat, this is simply an anachronism. You drift until they find you. There's no navigation. Then again, as we've discussed before, there has to be some benefit to a castaway's morale from being able to determine the lifeboat's position.
"I suspect most sailors who watch this movie will, before long, hope that he jumps overboard. I've been around some incompetent sailors but this guy has 'em beat by a long shot."
I'm reminded of my first class in celestial navigation when I was a kid, back in the summer of 1978. There was a stunningly stupid man in the class. He couldn't do anything and asked the same question ten times. He understood none of the concepts. Really disturbing. But sure enough, he and his wife sailed off a few years later and circumnavigated the globe using celestial navigation. Celestial really is easy. I spoke with him at length a couple of years ago about his experiences, and he did the one common sense thing that he had to do: he took everything that he had learned about celestial navigation, and he distilled it down to the very few parts that he could actually understand. As for the rest of his skills, fortunately intelligence is not a prerequisite for sailing across oceans. And of course, there's only one bottom line: HE DID IT. That bottom line applies to the character in "All is Lost", too.
I do agree that most sailors with real knowledge will be very frustrated by "All is Lost", even outraged. It's tough to set aside the technical details when you know them well. Ski bums obsess over gear in ski movies. This is normal "geeking out". But what about other viewers? Having now seen half of this movie (I fast-forwarded to get my screen caps) a second time, I'm more disappointed than the first time. It has serious flaws "as a film" which I previously blamed on bad projection at an "art house" theater. Despite the press releases, I feel that this movie was made on a shoestring budget, and it shows. The sound is unremarkable. Some critics thought that it added dramatic effect. I no longer buy the idea that this was intentional. And the lighting is awful. When he's shooting the Sun, not only does he not appear to be aiming at the Sun (which is strictly a technical triviality that annoys us specifically), but the Sun isn't even out in several scenes. It's a murky, partly cloudy sky that looks just plain dreary on film. There was no reason for them to be filming under such mediocre conditions except that they couldn't afford to wait. These weren't artistic choices or technical choices. I doubt they were choices at all; they were budget constraints. And the five minutes of credits are a dead giveaway. When you credit your team of accountants, individually by name, it's obvious that you've run out of money --"we can't pay you, but we can put you in the credits for the film!"
NavList message boards and member settings: www.fer3.com/NavList
Members may optionally receive posts by email.
To cancel email delivery, send a message to NoMail[at]fer3.com