Encounters at the End of the World (2007, Werner Herzog)

Not as audacious as La Soufrière nor as profound as Grizzly Man or moving as Little Dieter Needs To Fly, but has its measured share of audacity, profundity and… moving… ness. Motion? Werner goes to Antarctica to look at things, interview people, and express his contempt for it all. He finds some stuff to love, and there’s some gorgeous, wondrous underwater photography (non-Herzog-directed) by Henry Kaiser – THE Henry Kaiser, guitarist friend of Fred Frith – who also did the music. For above-ground shooting Werner brought along his Rescue Dawn/Little Dieter cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger.

We get the obvious “ice is melting and we are all doomed” bits, and shots of penguins, and interviews with the philosophers and scientists who live (either temporarily or not) in the ugly US base city of McMurdo. Touristy reaction scenes and the training sessions given to visitors before they’re allowed to leave the base. Then there are more typically Herzog moments. He comments on the commercialization of the south pole, the end of human discovery over the planet, signs we leave behind for future generations and visiting aliens. He cuts off some interviews, giving his own postscripts and summaries and arguments in their place (interrupts one woman flatly saying “her story goes on forever”). It’s a cool movie and a nice addition to Herzog’s philosophical travelogue cinema of human behavior on the edge, probably not destined to be a classic Great Film. Was very happy to see it on the big screen, and it was a nice breather among all the avant-garde shorts. Katy was a little disappointed with her first Werner Herzog experience, then I think after I told her she’d already seen a Herzog film and it was Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night, she liked Encounters a little more by comparison.

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