Werner Herzog doc explores Antartica's seductive power
FILM REVIEW: Encounters At The End Of The World
DIRECTED BY Werner Herzog
STARRING Werner Herzog, Henry Kaiser
When you think of Werner Herzog and the places he has taken his cameras, jungles come to mind. Which in films like Aguirre, Wrath Of God, Fitzcarraldo and Rescue Dawn are, for him, somewhat living things, almost visibly growing, voluptuous and virtually decadent. Encounters At the End Of The World finds Herzog in an altogether more barren world – the largely uninhabited wastes of Antarctica, whose vast stricken emptiness is in more ways than the obvious wholly chilling.
Herzog’s last documentary, Grizzly Man, was a portrait of Timothy Treadwell, an eccentric loner, who retreated to the Alaskan wilderness to pursue a singular obsession. In Antarctica, Herzog discovers an entire community of generously off-kilter individuals – marine biologists, physicists, plumbers, truck drivers, mainly based at the McMurdo Research Centre – drawn to these extremes, and what abides here unseen, by the lure of the unknown. Herzog is baffled, amused and fascinated by them all, exults in their palpable strangeness, draws us deep into their unique world and, via Henry Kaiser’s extraordinary underwater photography, what looms often unnervingly beneath it.
Herzog finds breathtaking beauty here in the awesome scale of things – one icy mass, we are reminded, is alone bigger not only than the iceberg that sank The Titanic, but bigger again than the country that built The Titanic. Like him, we can only pause in awe at the thought, sombre in consideration of human frailty and nature’s unforgiving might.