I’m sure that sometime in your middle-school life you read or heard about Robinson Crusoe. Dozens of films and television shows, even animated features, were made based on Daniel Defoe’s famous novel. He was, of course, a wonderful, exciting, dramatic piece of pure fiction.

Defoe took the story of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who, after a fight with the captain of his ship, was put ashore on a mysterious island, with nothing but gunpowder, carpenters’ tools and a Bible. Here he lived for four years before being found and rescued.

It wasn’t long before the “hucksters” of the sea smelled money and looked for ways to monetize the island and attract tourists. It began with the Chilean government renaming the place “Robinson Crusoe Island” in 1966, hoping to draw the crowds.

What unfolds on screen in gorgeous color and breathtaking vistas is Stéphane Goël’s view of the island as it exists today, eons from its beginnings.

The documentary film starts with a dramatic view of the ocean and local fishermen plotting their course.

Its narrative, written by Antoine Jaccoud, is hauntingly voiced by the great French film actor Mathieu Amalric, of “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Munich.”

Amalric plays the voice role of aristocrat Alfred von Rodt, who is described as a confirmed optimist, a tireless explorer and an indisputable rebel who developed multiple projects in hopes of enhancing his piece of rock.

Von Rodt, “the unwanted son,” dismissed by his family and hungry for adventure, dislodged himself in 1877 from the mountainous and socially sophisticated Switzerland to this Chilean island.

A census taken in 2012 counted 843 residents, who seem neither Swiss nor Chilean, and appear to be joined spiritually and emotionally to the animals, plants and rocks. Those locals live a quiet, almost monastic life, mostly in the village of San Juan Bautista, on the north coast.

There is an airstrip visited by Chilean aircraft, where we watch a young man help load a Cessna with travelers, who then films the departure with his new iPhone camera.

We leave the rocks, foliage and villagers behind, wondering how long it will be before other explorers arrive and then how long before a Starbucks arrives and the night sky is lighted by the golden arches of McDonalds.

Get your tickets now.


J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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