Encounters At the End of the World Werner Herzog

Encounters At the End of the World Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog continues to bounce from narrative feature (Rescue Dawn) to oddball acting appearance (Mister Lonely, The Grand) to documentary. In his first doc since the excellent Grizzly Man, Herzog treks to Antarctica, where he has "encounters” with its inhabitants, mostly scientists with their own obsessive subjects of study.

Initially fascinated by underwater footage taken by a diving enthusiast friend, Herzog comes to Antarctica to capture its beauty and decipher the draw of one of the harshest, least explored regions of the planet. He combines this with his personal perspective, which ranges from black humour to resigned fatalism, regularly pointing out that human life on the planet is doomed. His evidence — ranging from open, active volcanoes to deranged penguins to the terrors of the deep sea — add up to some heartbreakingly beautiful film footage, like a crazed, personal Planet Earth.

Herzog doesn’t hesitate to insert himself into the film, or to occasionally dismiss his subjects’ long-winded ramblings. He scorns the continent’s biggest community as an ugly mining town and only occasionally shows respect for the itinerant Ph.Ds who populate it.

It’s hardly one of Herzog’s best works but the beautiful footage he collects, combined with the occasional crazy lengths people go through to live on a world of ice, make Encounters an educational, if not uplifting, viewing experience. (Seville)