The madness of a non-fiction Fitzcarraldo may be found in the film biography of Dr. Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, written and directed by Jack Dyas. Fiennes’ performance as Kinski’s zealotish visionary is a tour de force: he demonstrates that visionaries can move mountains via sheer will, stubbornness, and inventiveness. Dyas traces Fiennes’ story through archival footage and disembodied voices, with interjections of footage from Fiennes’ life today. Explorer, on the other hand, is a delightful survey of a breathtaking, almost unbelievable CV that is punctuated with human sentiments and an undertow of melancholy.
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Fiennes’ eventful life contains everything a filmmaker could wish for. Despite the fact that he lost four of his fingers on a trek, Fiennes exhibits self-perceptions of how others see him. After the Transglobe Pole to Pole trip, he had his staff check their public school history before going forth. “White Privilege Madness” is what it’s called, but the film doesn’t spend much time talking about it.
Even amid these career highlights, there are many personal stories — he was one of the last six actors considered to play James Bond when Roger Moore was cast. These anecdotes are told in broad strokes, with colorful detail. However, what is more moving is his 48-year relationship with childhood sweetheart Ginny — he used to leave secret love letters for her in a tree trunk. She became a driving force in his life until she passed away from cancer. Despite the fact that he doesn’t think about it when writing, this is still “the one thing that makes me emotional.” Fiennes’ acceptance of his sister’s absence, particularly given his demeanor, is extremely moving. Also, there is a glimpse of Fiennes today, as he drives across the country to do personal appearances in order to “pay the gas bills,” sleeping in his beaten-up automobile between appointments, and asking director Dyas what the word “woke” means (while a runner passes by, he regretfully says: “Those were the days”).
Dyas’ early scenes especially showcase his artistry, through creative sound design (even if at times it is tough to follow all the disconnected voices). There’s not much in the way of analysis or insights into what makes Fiennes tick, but Explorer is a fascinating testament to one man’s desire to go past his limits. Then there was some more.
Explorer tells the story of a remarkable, more-than-fiction existence and emerges as an affecting, entertaining portrait of a genuine oddball. If it is only full of one viewpoint or many voices expressing themselves, Explorer becomes a memorable tale about a unique individual with an incredible life who made big contributions to humanity through his research on human perception.
Ranulph FiennesAnton Bowring