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Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 10,744 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 60 user | 147 critic | 25 from Metacritic.com

Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Narrator
Scott Rowland ...
Himself - Transportation Dept.
Stefan Pashov ...
Himself - Philosopher, Forklift Driver
Doug MacAyeal ...
Himself - Glaciologist (as Douglas MacAyeal)
Ryan Andrew Evans ...
Himself - Filmmaker, Cook (as Ryan A. Evans)
Kevin Emery ...
Himself - Survival School Instructor
Olav T. Oftedal ...
Himself - Nutritional Ecologist
Regina Eisert ...
Herself - Physiologist
David R. Pacheco Jr. ...
Himself - Journeyman Plumber
Samuel S. Bowser ...
Himself - Cell Biologist
Jan Pawlowski ...
Himself - Zoologist
William Jirsa ...
Himself - Linguist, Computer Expert
Karen Joyce ...
Herself - Traveler, Computer Expert
Libor Zicha ...
Himself - Utility Mechanic
Ashrita Furman ...
Himself - Multiple World Record Holder
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Storyline

'Werner Herzog' takes his camera to Antarctica where we meet the odd men and women who have dedicated their lives to furthering the cause of science in treacherous conditions. A scientist studies neutrinos, which are everywhere, yet elusive; he likens them to spirits. A researcher's nighttime performance art includes contorting her body into a luggage bag. A survival guide teaches his students to survive white-out conditions by wearing cartoon-face buckets over their heads. Animal researchers milk mother seals as part of their study. Volcanologists offer advice on what to do when a volcano erupts. A pipefitter shows us the anomaly in his hands that he says are a sign he descended from Atzec royalty. A former Colorado banker drives what he has christened Ivan the Terra Bus. An underwater diver shows his colleagues DVDs of apocalyptic sci-fi films like Them! (1954). And -- though Herzog declares he's not "making another film about penguins" -- we meet a penguin researcher who answers ... Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »
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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

17 October 2008 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

Encounters at the End of the World  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$17,730 (USA) (13 June 2008)

Gross:

$943,934 (USA) (31 October 2008)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Werner Herzog has disclosed that the scene of scientists putting their ears to the ice to listen to seal calls was entirely staged. Herzog asked them to position themselves according to his directions, and the sounds were previously recorded through underwater microphones by sound artist Douglas Quin. See more »

Quotes

William Jirsa: I like to say, if you take everybody who's not tied down they all sort of fall down to the bottom of the planet, so that's how we got here, you know. We're all at loose ends, and here we are together. I remember when I first got down here I sort of enjoyed the sensation of recognizing people with my travel markings. I was like, hey, these are my people. PhDs washing dishes and linguists on a continent with no languages.
See more »

Connections

Edited from Them! (1954) See more »

Soundtracks

Tsmindao Gmerto Orovela
Performed by Female Chorus Group by National Music School of Telavi
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User Reviews

There is No Point that is South of the South Pole
21 December 2008 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Encounters at the End of the World (2008) ****

"There is no point that is south of the south pole." That's a no brainer, but have you ever thought about that before reading that statement? Such a simple and obvious saying, yet there's something quite poignant buried within it. It's pointed out by one of Werner Herzog's dreamers - a philosopher and part time forklift driver - that he found on his encounters at the end of the world.

Herzog begins his new documentary warning us that this will not be another film about fluffy penguins; his questions about nature are far different. For example, why does a sophisticated creature like a chimp not make use of inferior creatures - they could saddle goats and ride off into the sunset. Herzog delivers with a pondering and quizzical film. Encounters at the End of the World is about the intricacies - and insanities - of life on Antarctica. His visit was spurred on by the footage taken by one of the under-ice divers, a friend of his. He opens the film with the images of what appears to be hauntingly blue skies and bubbly white clouds, but its not skies nor clouds, but the clear waters and hulking ice. Herzog, always fascinated with the oddity and great beauty of the natural world, fills his documentary with stunning images and sequences. Underwater divers film strange creatures under the ice, and massive ice formations while navigating their way back to the single hole in the ice, without tether lines to guide them. Volcanologists traverse dormant lava tubes, only having to be weary of poison gases that can be found in some.

Herzog's base of operations is McMurdo, the largest settlement on the continent. He describes it as an ugly mining town. And it is ugly. It's filled with scientists, wanderers, adventurers and dreamers, all looking to 'jump off the margins of the map,' as one observer puts it. It also has "abominations" such as aerobics and yoga studios, even an ATM. Before he go in the field, he, like everyone else, must attend survival school, where among other things students learn to build shelter, and then must spend the night in it. They also partake in a white out simulation, achieved by wearing white buckets on their heads. They wander out to find the instructor, playing a lost peer. As they get disorientated, the scene becomes comical, but also points out our inferiority when up against nature.

Herzog does make a stop to visit some penguins briefly, and the man who studies them - reportedly no longer much of a conversationist with humans since he spends so much time isolated with penguins. Herzog's questions are amusing, but thoughtful. "Are there gay penguins?" "Is there such thing as madness among penguins?" The answer to that last question leads to one of the films most memorable and profound sequences.

The film at once is an admiration of those who find themselves working at the end of the world, and an admonition of the manipulation of adventure. Herzog wastes no time on the uninteresting people there. He talks with a scientist who describes a horrifying world that would tear us apart - if it were not too small to be seen by the human eye. He also shows old science fiction movies and warns of our fate. Some of them gather during the night, still day lit, for a jam session on top of their hut.Another woman discusses how she rode through South America in a sewer pipe, then zips herself into a travel bag. Another man, a plumber, says his hands prove that he is descended from Aztec and Inca royalty. On the other hand, he admonishes the notion of adventure for conquer. Shackleton came not for the sake of adventure, but to claim the South Pole. He almost lampoons some of his subjects, but is never disrespectful and clearly admires all of them.

The name of the film is something of a double entendre. Herzog frequently ponders another life after humans are gone. What would they think of us when they come see what we're doing in Antarctica? There are references to global warming and threats to our planet, but Herzog is no issue of the day crusader. So many other documentaries would condescend to us, and have. Green has become the fad of the day, annoying many instead of enlightening. Herzog is too much of an enigma to pander or preach to us, and that's part of the reason why Encounters at the End of the World is so special.

Werner Herzog is a man incapable of making a dull film. What is entirely true in this documentary is questionable as it is in his others. His pursuit of ecstatic truth - semi-fictions to capture the essence of what is more truthful than truth - gives him license to embellish. But no matter, if he has some of his interviewees script some details, I do no care to know which. I'm happy being mesmerized by the stories they tell as is.

For me, a Werner Herzog film is like pulling on a warm pair of slippers on a cold winter day, and pulling up by the fire to read a favorite book. Herzog was one of the first filmmakers to draw me into the world of great film-making, and for that I forever owe him a great debt of gratitude. And it was Roger Ebert who lead me to him, so how fitting that this beautiful film was dedicated to him.


12 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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