Encounters at the End of the World

Encounters at the End of the World is a documentary about Antarctica. No, that’s not quite accurate. It’s really a documentary about director/narrator Werner Herzog, his visit to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and the people he meets there.

I’ll give it out of . I’m not going to say anything more since this review is already over four months overdue.

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell on 6/22/2008. Henry Kaiser, the producer, composer, and underwater photographer for the film, was there to answer questions. Here are some notes that I wrote down (there may be some spoilers below, if a documentary can have spoilers):

  • Most films on Antarctica are done with a National Science Foundation minder, but this was very different as an “inside” job as part of the artists program–it was basically just Kaiser, Herzog, and the cinematographer
  • Kaiser went to school and worked in films alternate years, and he met Herzog long ago on an airplane–Kaiser’s first film with Herzog was Little Dieter needs to Fly (though IMDb does not show Kaiser being involved with that one)
  • Herzog promises not to make a film about penguins but then he does include them: gay penguins, penguin prostitution, and crazy penguins (the one going towards the mountains was actually filmed a month earlier)
  • Despite hearing about silence, we don’t hear it
  • An audience member who worked there said watching the film was like being there
  • Kaiser says it’s very safe to dive under the ice–they mostly dive where there is no current
  • About the recent story about condom delivery, Kaiser said “that’s a two year supply”
  • Survival camp is actually good and important despite it seeming sort of silly in the film
  • The music was composed not to the picture, and it included music from lots of different parts of the world
  • The legend of Herzog taking risks made Kaiser nervous–during snowmobile training, Werner fell off and the snowmobile rolled back down the hill over him
  • The film is dedicated to Ebert–he and Herzog admire each other
  • Werner has a difficult reputation but everyone says that he is so kind after meeting him–he offers to help do the dishes or whatever
  • Antarctica is addictive–some lose their marriages–one woman left her three-month-old baby with her husband to go down and drive a bus
  • Tim (the Camera Cinema Club director) has never seen a more uplifting film about the extinction of the human race
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