Blu-ray: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

STUDIO: Arrow/MVD | DIRECTOR: Vincent Ward | CAST: Buce Lyons, Chris Haywood, Hamish McFarlane, Sarah Peirse
RELEASE DATE: July 24, 2018 | PRICE: Blu-ray $23.33
BONUSES: archival documentary, appreciation by critic Nick Roddick, trailer
SPECS: PG | 90 min. | Drama adventure fantasy | 1.85:1 widescreen | LCPM mono | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes):
Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall

New Zealand auteur Vincent Ward’s 1988 breakthrough film following his 1984 debut Vigil, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey returns in a gorgeous high-definition Blu-ray presentation.

A startlingly original adventure piece that’s part medieval drama, part spiritual dirge and part time-traveling fantasy, The Navigator centers on a group of villagers in 14th Century Cumbria who learn of the approaching plague—the Black Death—that would ultimately claim the lives of more than one-third of Europe’s total population. Inspired by the apocalyptic visions seen by a young village boy (Hamish McFarlane), a small band of men tunnel into the Earth, copper ore in tow, emerging in modern-day New Zealand, which they can only comprehend as another land that is unlike their own. As per what the boy with second sight has seen, the men set out to melt and shape the ore into a holy cross to place on the steeple of “the biggest Church in all of Christendom” as an offering for God’s protection from the plague.

An adventure story, yes, but The Navigator also presents audiences with a serious dose of spirituality, its central band of medieval explorers bringing a sense of divine accomplishment to the 20th Century as they attempt to fulfill their quest. Filmmaker Ward’s distinguishing and paralleling of the two depicted time periods (the older one is presented in black-and-white, the modern one in saturated color) is consistently fascinating, all the more effectively as the men of each period acknowledge their time-tripping counterparts without any leaps in logic or unrealistic assumptions. No pithy jokes or wacky assumptions here…

Bonus features on the Blu-ray include a half-hour-long 1989 profile on Ward produced for New Zealand TV and a new nine-minute appreciation of The Navigator by British film critic Nick Roddick, who briefly discusses Ward’s career before going to describe the film as “a satire—without the humor—on modern values.”

Buy or Rent The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.