Friday, August 10, 2012

Encounters at the End of the World (2007) [G] ****

Written, directed and narrated by Werner Herzog, this Oscar-nominated documentary feature reflects one man's curiosity about the continent of Antarctica, and the nature of the inhabitants of the American research base at McMurdo Sound. Herzog observes and interviews a diverse group of people including, among others: scientists studying the huge icebergs and their movements in the ocean currents surrounding Antarctica, marine biologists studying underwater animal life, zoologists studying penguins and Waddell seals, volcanologists studying the Mt. Erebus active volcano and the fumaroles on the volcano's flanks, a physicist performing a neutrino experiment in the stratosphere, a linguist cultivating tomatoes in a greenhouse, a survival expert conducting a training class for new arrivals, a plumber performing a pipe repair, and the driver of one of the largest buses in the world.

The one thing these residents all seem to have in common is a love of freedom and adventure. As one of them observes, it is as though anyone who is not tied down ends up at the bottom of the world. While Herzog tells us that the scientists he has met are uniformly alarmed about global climate change, and that many of them predict the demise of the human species, the effects of climate change on the continent and its animal life are not a subject of the documentary, and there is no visual evidence presented to show, for example, receding glaciers or crumbling ice shelves. As a result, this documentary is most likely to appeal to someone with a sociological or historical curiosity about Antarctica and its exploration and colonization, or to a scientist planning an expedition to Antarctica. Viewers expecting a consistently-themed, visually beautiful portrayal of Antarctica will be disappointed; this is not Planet Earth. Nor does it have the dramatic depth, character development and emotional appeal of Antarctica or its remake Eight Below

Label: documentary

Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 80/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=76, viewers=70)

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