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03 June 2012

Encounters at the end of the World (2007)


Directed and Written by: Werner Herzog
Genre: Documentary
USA
Colour, 99 Minutes

Verdict: Werner Herzog has made almost as many documentaries as he has fictional films, and his documentaries most certainly have a cinematic element to them. Encounters at the End of the World is one of his best documentaries as he explores the wonders of Antarctica and its fascinatingly beautiful areas,  revealing more than just gorgeous landscapes.

Plot: Herzog and his small camera crew travel to Antarctica were they interview the various people who work and live there, and explore the cold and desolate areas of Antarctica.

At this stage, I have fully fallen in love with Herzog’s films, and it is clear he is one of the best documentary filmmakers with films such as Into the Abyss and Grizzly Man in his filmography. His narration is excellent, his curiosity shows him as an explorer of the world and his writing is golden. When we hear Herzog speaking over the visuals in his documentaries, we have full attention to what he is saying. With such a voice, on par with that of Morgan Freeman's voice-over voice, it definitely gives his documentary's more edge. 

Encounters at the End of the World presents you with glorious footage of Antarctica that truly makes you want to explore its acres of empty land. The interesting thing is, not only do we see the landscapes, mountains and the people who live at Antarctica, but various other aspects of Antarctica. We see underwater life, seals, a volcano and even penguins.  Each of these segments could have a documentary of their own or even make this film well-over 2 hours long. However, Herzog has finely constructed all this footage giving you a full transportation into the areas that are uncovered.

An experiment being taken near a volcano.
The film shows more than just Antarctica, but a statement of human psyche with landscapes. With the interviews Herzog takes with the scientists, they are engulfed by Antarctica’s scale with one speaking passionately about an Iceberg underneath the Ice and how he felt the Iceberg beneath his feet.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. In many of Herzog's documentaries we are presented with montages of whatever the film's subject is, were we hear beautiful music. This one has a beautifully composed soundtrack by David Lindley and Henry Jaiser that give the film extra poignancy. 

One scene I will never forget was a definitive cinematic moment that was luckily captured on film. We see three penguins in a very wide shot. One walks to the left, were the other penguins are, and another goes to the right in order to find food. One remains in the middle. What is he doing? He begins walking towards the Icy Mountains of Antarctica, into the emptiness of the frozen wasteland. When Herzog says, “he is walking into certain death”, it is a truly touching and tragic moment that has you at a standstill by its beauty. Although it is just a penguin, seeing it walking into emptiness is deeply moving and harrowing, and is one of the film’s finest moments.

This is a finely constructed documentary filled with lavish imagery of Antarctica and will mesmerise you without a doubt. Herzog gives an excellent narration and captures on film some beautiful images that do not cease to fascinate you: a very well worth watching film.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful review. I have some doubts on whether that lone penguin got there all on his own, but the underwater sequence in this is the most fascinating nature sequence (not narrated by David Attenborough) I've ever seen on film.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved that sequence!

    ReplyDelete

 

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