cohesion: The expectation of a paradise free of modern progress became the opposite, but most of all, Newtopia is about two very different men who support and help each other when life is at its most brutal.

Countries is a film writer and director and regular writer for MODERN TIMES.
Published: 2020-02-14

Audun Amundsen (Norway)

The primeval forest is emerald green, and a river curves inward towards an unspoiled oak. Audun Amundsen was a long-haired backpacking tourist when, for the first time in 2004, he met the indigenous people of the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia and was feathered. He lived in the jungle with them for a whole month.

For fourteen years he has returned to photograph and film, what he thought would remain, authentic life. The visuals are spectacular, at times almost mesmerizing.

The expectation of a paradise free of all modernity became the story of the opposite. With his close, long-standing relationship with shaman Aman Paksa, the director finds himself on the inside when the indigenous peoples' traditions are challenged and crackle in the desire for the comforts of today. Related to Amundsen's typical western romanticization of the tough and hard life in the jungle, the film becomes an important reflection on what contradictory gaze we give the others versus ourselves.

Early in the film, the director uses a well-functioning approach where he represents the view that the others shall remain untouched by present opportunities and advancements:

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"I'm not very excited about all the plastic and clothing they [mentawa people, ed.] have purchased. Even though their lifestyle is essentially the same, I find it ruins my movie. ”


Audun Amundsen is pale and short-cut when he returns to shaman Paksa and his clan four years after his first stay there. He has hired a motorboat and crew and enjoys the rain on his face as he is transported effortlessly and swiftly up the river towards, what in his head will always remain, the Promised Land.

These two unlucky men manage to communicate and open up to each other despite
brimming with ways of living and opportunities.

Amundsen reminds me of Klaus Kinski in the feature films of Werner Herzog. Kinski on his way to Eldorado in the movie Aguirre - the god of anger or his other brilliant detective-role interpretation in the film Fitzcarraldo. In both films, Kinski is in the same position as Amundsen - in front of the boat on his way with an important mission. Kinski came both as a conqueror in metal armor and as a philanthropist dressed in lime dress. In that one story ...

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