Watching Lost in the Wilderness would have undoubtedly bring about comparisons to our very own adventurer Khoo Siew Chiow, who is the fourth person in the world to date to complete The Adventure Grand Slam, which is to conquer the highest peaks in all the 7 continents, and cross the North and South Poles. A bio-pic of sorts of Japanese adventurer Uemura Naomi, this movie traces his professional life and his exploits, while at the same time, focusing on issues which I'd bet Khoo probably had faced as well, making you wonder if these issues are universal ones in which almost every adventurer will face at one point or another during their career.
Uemura is an interesting character. He's soft spoken on the outside, but inside he has this lion's courage and dogged determination to push the boundaries of physical and mental limitations. He's alone for most of his exploits, but this is more of a choice as he attempts his solo ascents and treks. Not that he's not a team player, contrary to that, he's an excellent one, subscribing to the mantra of leaving no man behind. He's the one you can count on in your team never to give up. A bad experience with an international group made him swear off joining forces, because with groups come egos and petty bickering easily erupts when ideas and opinions differ. So henceforth a solo adventurer is born, whose challenges need to get bigger to satisfy his addiction for trotting the less travelled paths.
And we know just how expensive these challenges can get, given Khoo's own experiences and appeals for funding too. This movie also chronicled this difficult expect, and presented arguments which are always to surface - why are we providing public funds to fuel the dreams of a solo aim, versus providing the same amount of money for other more worthy, and more public causes? As the complexity of the challenge increases, exorbitant amounts of money is required for the adventurer's preparation, and most importantly, logistics. Also, it doesn't always translate to success, as you can see from Khoo's personal exploits too, like the abandoned missions of climbing Everest without oxygen, or to swim across the English Channel. Do we need to provide funds to satisfy personal vanity projects, or do this projects put us on the world map, saying that we "can" too?
Then there is the plight of the family. Uemura woos his wife with aplomb, but you can see that change in character within himself - taking her for granted, and of course, being away for extended periods of time. While his wife laments in private about her married life, this is probably something that every adventurer has to look into, and I guess Khoo's wife has always maintained her support for her husband when he embarks on these quests, which often are dangerous. The love story in Lost in the Wilderness gets itself lost though, as events as told in the movie doesn't go deep into its theme, not at least until toward the end, where Umemura breaks his promise and insists on going for his final ascent. It does make one ponder whether to these guys, it's adventure first, or family commitment taking priority, and I like to warrant a guess that often, the decision is difficult.
Nonetheless this movie is as easy to follow as any typical bio-pic, and director Junya Sato has managed to capture the essence of adventuring - loneliness (at being at the top of your game), wit and sheer perserverance - in its "action" sequences, without the need to be repetitive, and one of the best bits are to observe his innovative ideas, pertaining to logistics (given that there's an upper limit to personal encumbrance) and the dealing with unseen crevices. In tribute to the one man's determination, the end credits roll off a series of his achievements.
You can read more about Uemura Naomi here.