The Navigator, A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
An unusual movie that should be compulsory viewing for students of film, students of history and for those who love Celtic music. Hear a sample of the soundtrack in the video link below. The movie and its hauning scenes will remain in the mind long after you have finished watching it. And it’s an Oz/Kiwi production. Go Oz.
As the Black Death spreads across 14th century England, a small Cumbrian mining village hears tales of what is happening elsewhere, knowing that the infection is coming to claim them. The villagers determine that they must make an offering to God for His protection, the placing of a holy cross on the steeple of the biggest church in Christendom, such task to be accomplished before the next full moon. They are guided by Griffin, a boy with visions, and led by Connor, whom Griffin idolises. Travelling through the earth, they emerge in twentieth century New Zealand, amazed but determined to fulfil their quest.
Arno: The copper. An offering. We’ve got to take the offering, Con, to the great church, to the far side of the earth
The idea for the film originated when director Vincent Ward attempted to cross a German autobahn, which have no speed limits, and became stranded in the middle. This inspired Ward (while trapped on the motorway) to imagine what it would be like for a medieval person to find themselves in such a 20th century situation. He was also inspired by a report about two Papua New Guinean tribesmen who briefly visited an Australian city, and the child's myth of digging through the earth and coming out the other side. The original script was "a broad comedy, rather brash and funny and full of warrior gnomes".
The film is in part an attempt to view modern life in a way which makes it seem strange and fresh, as if seen for the first time, and speculation about what the ancestors of modern New Zealanders might make of them and their world. Ward has made several analogies between 1980s New Zealanders and the medieval characters in the film. He has said that "Many New Zealanders going overseas for the first time are trusting and almost medieval in their outlook" and has also compared the medievals' attempts to fend off the plague with New Zealand's nuclear free policy (alluded to in the nuclear submarine scene) and its consequences, particularly the Rainbow Warrior bombing. In both cases a small community attempts to determine its own fate in the face of a larger power.m Ward also felt that there were more general similarities between the 14th and 20th centuries, in particular large-scale war and (in the context of 1980s fears about AIDS) terrifying disease. However he has also said that too much can be made of the film's paralleling of the bubonic plague and AIDS.