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Scott vs. Amundsen. It wasn't meant to be a race, but race it becomes, as the world awaits news of the first to reach the Pole. What follows is a tale of heroism, foolhardiness, selflessness and self-delusion, in a land where victory must be secondary to survival. Written by
The song that Olav Bjaaland (Ståle Bjørnhaug) sings when the Norwegian team breaks the "farthest south" record is "Nordmannen", also called "Millom Bakkar og Berg". The lyrics are by the Norwegian poet and linguist, Ivar Aasen (1813-1896), best known for developing the "landsmaal" written language from rural Norwegian dialects. The music is by Ludvig Lindeman (1812-1887). See more »
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This is a fabulous mini-series - a docudrama - about the South Pole expeditions of Norwegian R Amundsen and the British Robert Falcon Scott. The acting and photography are superb, an excellent period piece (although the quality of the DVD itself is a bit grainy).
Unless you've slept under a rock for 100 years, or never read a history book, you know that Amundsen reached the Pole first, and successfully returned, whereas Scott and 4 of his men perished miserably on the return trip. Why? It's all about project management. This DVD is all about properly managing a complicated project dealing with the wilds of nature. Amundsen has 'it' - Scott doesn't.
The Norwegians are highly-skilled at traveling in frozen wastelands. They are in fine physical condition, they know how to ski and handle dog-teams. Amundsen recruits a small team of specialists. He doesn't get too high or low about anything, nor does he get too close to the team--he remains aloof. He makes meticulous preparations.
The British are operated like a Navy Ship under military command: Scott gives orders and doesn't want them questioned. He has a group of favorites, but takes a colossal team of guys, mostly military, but some civilians, who find Scott pompous, arrogant and misguided. He breaks promises and plays the men against each other, while they hope to be in the final group to make the final trek. He sends the wrong guy to purchase Siberian ponies, to save a few bucks, plus he fails to include a couple of key players, including a properly-trained team to tend to the motor sledges. Since there wasn't a Walmart Auto (or Canadian Tire) in the Antarctic, you might wonder what he was thinking. But his biggest problem is the notion of man-hauling the enormous loads all the way to the Pole. you see: no one walks when they can ride. and the Eskimos always rode dog-teams. Scott had experienced some difficulties with dogs in the past, but that's no excuse.
I might direct your attention to a couple of fabulous scenes featuring Bill Nighy, who plays Meares, one of the dog-team drivers. Meares says he'd rather swim back to New Zealand than spend another season under Scott's command. He later tells Scott, in so many words, that he finds it highly unlikely that Scott will live to criticize Meares' choices. Nighy is terrific.
In case you missed it, this screenplay is based on a historical non-fiction piece created after it was discovered that many unflattering portions of Scott's diary were excised from the publication released to the public. There has been quite the resistance from many quarters to a revised viewpoint of a man considered to be a great British hero. Apparently, some recent discovery that the weather was particularly cold when Scott tried to return from the Pole is cited as startling scientific evidence that this presentation of Scott as a peevish incompetent should be set aside. well, whose decision was it to try walking there and back anyway? As Meares says (in this dramatization): 'any man who sits in the Antarctic and whines about the weather is unfit to lead'.
I'll close with a quote, not from this film, but from the 1948 'Scott of the Antarctic' with John Mills. The Scott character (Mills) tells Nansen (the elder statesman of Arctic exploration) that he is going to the South Pole with motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. Nansen replies that Scott should take dogs, dogs and more dogs.
Amundsen did - Scott didn't. Case closed.
Enjoy this excellent re-creation of events. It's insightful.
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