Encounters at the End of the World (USA; 99 min.)


directed by: Werner Herzog
documentary
Encounters at the End of the World
 

Bruce says: "Like Ozu and Rohmer, Werner Herzog tends to revisit the same themes. That is not to say he is making the same film over and over; he is compiling a body of work that is forged together thematically, in spectacular fashion. Herzog, one of the most prolific of director’s working today, is obsessed with places and people that are far from the ordinary, sometimes just plain bizarre. He frequently uses previously shot footage and combines it with new interviews and experiences of his own. In the case of ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger had an easy sell when he showed Herzog some footage he shot in while Antarctica, the only continent Herzog had never filmed. Thus ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD was born. Herzog soon became Antarctica’s Poet/Artist in residence for seven weeks.

"When the film crew arrived they found a very ugly mining town that is the main headquarters for most activity on the continent. Like all of the new arrivals they were required to take the Happy Camper Survival Training course before they were allowed to go into the wild. They learned how to build and sleep in an igloo, how to deal with a burning vehicle scenario, and how to collectively navigate the terrain while suffering snow blindness. The amusing snow blindness exercise is done with blindfolds. The group forms a human chain and is required to travel across a snowfield. An interesting 'cascading error' effect materializes – once a mistake is made, efforts to correct it actually compound the error.

"Herzog is constantly amazed by the vastness of nature and both the indomitable spirit and the folly of mankind. He is curious about who else finds these subjects intriguing. As in many of his documentaries ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD includes human interest sidebars. Who are the people crazy enough to call Antarctica home? What are their dreams?

"Many of the workers are scientists. Others are wanderers with general skills that every community needs to keep afloat. Herzog interviews a good cross section and we learn something from everyone. One laments that 90% of the world’s spoken languages will become extinct in his lifetime. Many of the scientists are pessimistic, feeling nature has the ability to destroy mankind and mankind, at the same time, foolishly augments nature’s most destructive forces. Bearing witness, Antarctica, the continent, is rapidly shrinking. Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger takes us 'down into the cathedral' where marvelous ice caves are structured like beautiful sci-fi cities and landscapes. A plane takes us into the crater of Mt. Aerobus, an active volcano. Original music by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley is played by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and is mixed in with traditional Russian Orthodox choral pieces.

"The film crew takes in a local variety show during the trip and the highlight is a woman who transforms herself into a walking valise. Like everything else on Herzog’s horizon, it is surreal. 4 1/2 cats

"ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival."