Encounters At the End of the World Werner Herzog

Encounters At the End of the World Werner Herzog
Encounters at the End of the World is one of the most interesting nature documentaries I’ve seen. Veteran director Werner Herzog brings an outsider’s perspective to the subject, examining not only the natural wonders of the Antarctic but also the people he meets there and the reasons that brought them to the desolate continent. As with his other films, Herzog manages to combine the scrutiny of a cinematic genius with the wonder of a child. The high definition videography captures the epic grandeur of the locale, while Herzog’s personable interview technique elicits the intangible human qualities of the scant population. Right from the start, Herzog’s narration asserts that he’s not about to "make another penguin movie.” While Herzog follows the traditional Discovery Channel track (including filming some penguins), his narration delves into deeper themes — loneliness, the meaning of perception, the inevitable extinction of the human race and how Antarctica can serve as a template for pondering the practicality of all these ideas. Although slowly paced at times, the images and characters never cease to hold interest. Herzog has directed so many fine documentaries that he even parodied his documentary persona in Zak Penn’s Incident at Loch Ness, before making Grizzly Man, his most well known doc. For Encounters to fail, Herzog would have had to deviate substantially from a career of reliably excellent filmmaking. It’s not his best movie but it is a haunting, sad, beautiful examination of a place that deceptively evokes feelings of loneliness. The title is both personal and speculative — are the people working in Antarctica running away from the inhabited earth or chasing some elusive sense of eternity? Does Antarctica’s occupation represent a great achievement for humanity or its insignificance? Encounters at the End of the World is a nature film without the typical erroneous concession that human behaviour isn’t a participant in nature. (Seville)