"The Navigator: An Odyssey Across Time" is a strange blend of Ingmar Bergman and "The Twilight Zone."
If that setup sounds weird, you're well on your way to being prepared for this most unique film.Alternately a serious exploration of simple, superstitious peasants living in medieval England during the time of the Black Death and a light-hearted fantasy about time-travel, "The Navigator" is often quite fascinating - and sometimes rather frustrating.
The tone from the outset is brooding and harsh as director/co-writer Vincent Ward sets up his main protagonist, a young lad in a small village near Cumbria, England, in the 14th Century, as apparently possessing psychic powers.
Young Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) seems to be able to see into the future, and his stories are the impetus for a time-travel journey with a small group of adult comrades from his village.
Griffin's older brother Conner (Bruce Lyons) has been missing from the village for some time and it is feared that he has succumbed to the Plague. But lo and behold he returns, filled with scary stories about death and destruction.
So when they are invaded by strangers who carry with them the Black Death, the villagers decide to take action. Griffin sees a quest _ they must have a cross cast in copper and then place it on the high steeple of a great cathedral that is across the water.
That journey leads them not only across the water but across time as they find themselves in late 20th-century New Zealand, some 10,000 miles away and 700 years in the future. The result is a desperate race against time that is alternately harrowing and humorous.
Ward uses black and white and color cinematography alternately, but not without rhyme or reason, and though it is at first a bit disconcerting, after a time it becomes understandable. Less successful is his incessant use of closeups that at times make the proceedings rather confused _ where are we and what exactly is going on? Some of these scenes are so lengthy and talky that the audience is likely to get a bit annoyed at the film's vagueness.
Most of the way, however, "The Navigator" ranges from interesting to fascinating, the latter particularly during the Cumbria sequences when you can feel the cold weather and the difficult living conditions.
If you're looking for an antidote to the summer "blockbuster" mentality, "The Navigator" more than fills the bill. It is rated PG for violence and some profanity.