Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Encounters at the End of the World (2007) – I must make full confession, I was dead tired but I didn’t want to go to sleep (as it was the middle of the afternoon) so I decided to watch a movie instead. As such, I didn’t stay 100% conscious the whole time so I feel that I am short-changing this movie somewhat. I was awake for almost all of it and what I saw was amazing, but my hazy memory (this was a week ago) makes me think perhaps I was less than alert. Anyway, onto more substantive content. When Werner Herzog makes a movie in Antarctica, you know it’s not going to be “about fluffy penguins.” Herzog is a weird dude. That’s one of the things that makes his movies so hypnotic. That and the breath-taking visuals.

Herzog’s focus in this film isn’t as much the nature and the untamed Antarctic landscape that so viciously thwarted Ernest Shackleton’s expedition a century past, but on the type of people who are drawn to this place. A theme of the movie is that extreme places of the world will always attract a motley crew of outcasts, people on the fringes with no real place in an ordinary world (this theme was also touched upon in Another Earth). The colorful characters encountered by Herzog are what ground the film with a kind of humanity. Maybe the experience is a far cry from universal, but the desire for adventure is pretty engrained in most of us.

I’ve been fairly underexposed to Herzog’s work. I was underwhelmed by the narrative feature Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call  New Orleans but blown away by the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. While I can’t make any definitive judgments until I have a wider sample to judge from, I think I vastly prefer Herzog the documentarian. His view of our world is one that should be shared. His is the movie that focuses on penguin death marches and people who hike into volcanoes. It’s definitely a worldview I need to see more of.

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