Encounters at the End of the World (2007) Poster

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A truly beautiful look at Antarctica and the fascinating people who work there
xlr8845 September 2007
I had a chance to see Werner Herzog's latest documentary at the Telluride Film Festival, where it received great buzz and very high praise upon its debut. Herzog informed the audience that he was shown some footage taken by a photographer in Antarctica while doing post-production on Grizzly Man and he was immediately entranced by what he saw. From this he was compelled to visit the continent and shoot some footage of his own, which became Encounters at the End of the World.

The film perfectly balances both gorgeous footage of the continent as well as fascinating interviews and anecdotes of the many researchers and workers of the McMurdo research station. There are many humorous moments, such as a scene in which visitors must go through a follow-the-leader type exercise before being allowed to venture out into the wild. Participants in the exercise must wear buckets adorned with ridiculous caricatures over their heads in order to simulate a whiteout. They must then try to follow each other as a group and find a researcher a distance away. Herzog simply observes as the participants fail over and over to find the researcher, which left the audience laughing for minutes on end. Another excellent scene has Herzog interviewing an expert on penguins, who goes into some of their more bizarre behavior, such when penguins go insane. In both cases, Herzog features striking footage and amusing interviews and narration.

The film fits in well with Herzog's already substantial canon. It is a beautiful look at a beautiful continent populated by a forklift driver with a PhD, a woman who once traveled to South America in a sewage pipe on the back of a truck, researchers who play electric guitars on top of research station to celebrate discovering three new species of aquatic life in one day, and many more. Their stories converge where all the lines on the map meet at the end of the world. Herzog shot the film with a crew of just himself and the camera operator, and the result is a film with some of the most beautiful footage I've ever seen. Do not miss this when it receives general release!
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Not another movie about penguins.
snafoolery18 October 2007
My school recently sponsored a screening of this film with Werner Herzog himself in attendance. Herzog joked with the audience that part of his ambition to make this film was because he wanted to document the Antarctic without making "another movie about penguins." And although a portion of the movie DOES contain a segment about penguins, it plays a minor role in a film of many elements which compose a curious and beautiful documentary. It is a study of both Nature and Man: by turns breathtaking in its landscape (especially the underwater photography), at other times funny and serious, as Herzog interviews the motley crew of individuals who call Antarctica home for the greater part of the year. Herzog narrates the film with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, yet always maintains respect for the subjects he covers. While he quipped with us afterward that this is not your typical Discovery Channel fare, he said he hopes to broadcast this film sometime on Discovery early next year. If that is the case, it is not a documentary anyone should miss.
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Antarctica as only Herzog could deliver it...
death-hilarious13 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When you go into a documentary about Antarctica by Werner Herzog, you can't at all be certain about what you're going to get, though you can be pretty sure that whatever it is, it's not going to be about cute penguins. It turns out that Herzog was invited to stay in McMurdo Station as a resident artist along with a camera man, and this documentary for Discovery Films was what came out of that visit. With characteristic eccentricity, what captures the most attention in Herzog's lens is not the pristine landscape or wildlife, but the rather mundane sight of the, albeit colorful, people who work and live in Antarctica. As one of the people Herzog interviews puts it, it's like all of the interesting people who cut themselves loose from conventional life eventually fall down and meet here at the bottom of the world. Here we meet unforgettable characters like the philosopher truck driver, the lady who traveled through south America in a sewage pipe, and even a descendant of Aztec royalty. Their anecdotes and the narration will keep you in stitches. This isn't to say that Herzog doesn't take in the local sights and sounds. We're taken under the ocean into underwater 'cathedrals', we hear the psychedelic sounds of mating seals, we see a live volcano and even catch a penguin or two. However, the narration remains light and funny, and the true focus always remains on the human inhabitants. Don't expect a grand message about conservation or anything else, indeed Herzog's view of mankind seems to be very fatalistic. I think as long as there are interesting human beings doing interesting things, Herzog will be happy ... and busy.
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Dear Future Aliens: This is why we've left you a fish
revival0518 November 2008
The world ends at Antarctica, at least geographically - there's nothing further south - and quite possibly in a greater sense. Werner Herzog has gone there to make a film, catching the opportunity to capture some of it's beauty in a way rarely seen on film, and also to share some of his thoughts about nature and humanity. In and around the large McMurdo Research Station he circulates the various people working there, joins them on their fieldwork and interviews them, all resulting in a blend of beautiful images, personal micro-stories, funny sidetracks, well paced informative moments and an often fascinating look at nature's inexplicable mystery, humanity's as well as Mother Earth's.

This is a large canvas, perhaps slightly difficult to put in proper words. Above all, all of the ideas and thoughts within the movie stems largely from the viewer's own imagination, Herzog is merely - with his warm and serious, yet inexplicable witty, narration - planting the mental seeds and asking the questions, some rhetorical and some forever impossible to answer. And it is remarkable how he does this, how this film is designed. All throughout, Herzog moves about like a genuine tourist and at the beginning I am surprised how spontaneous the whole idea feels, almost as if I am actually watching a private home video made for personal remembrance. The only difference being of course, that it would be the kind of home video Herzog would make. And be that as it may, this is still a great movie, because it continues from this elementary first stage of how he travels to the station, combined with stock footage of the explorers of the 1800s, into that of a true thinker's exploration in a romantic setting. The form of the film gradually evolves, first small steps with the reality of the small, modern society that has been developed, the paradox of a restaurant with a beloved ice-cream machine (needless to point out further, and despised by Herzog), and with a scene of people having an unusual way of training, in case they would get lost in a blizzard. From then on, at least I was hooked and from these minor steps of humanity looking itself, if but slightly, in the mirror, the movie blossoms into a greater and greater abyss of questions that human beings will always feel the hunger to answer, questions they never will be able to answer but questions that human beings will always need to have.

Human beings, now there's another thing. Herzog encounters a lot of inhabitants of the station and gets to know them, and while not to say that there aren't interesting people throughout the movie, but here we have the adventurous woman who has her own party trick where she amuses people by becoming luggage. She has many stories to tell, like how she hitch-hiked from USA to Africa in a sewer pipe. Another man claims he once survived getting killed by the mayans . There are others with less dramatic things to say. Like one of the biologist divers, slightly sad since he's decided that at that very day he will perform his last dive. He feels like his job is done. Another man is simply showing how he has two fingers of the same length, which would prove that he's got Aztec blood in his veins. Or so they say.

You might understand what I'm getting at. In these very sequences of utter realism, we do get to feel the fresh air of a normal day out at the Antarctica. And it helps settle the notion that this is a film about humanity. We are constantly in the real world, with real people, in contrast to Grizzly Man (2005), Herzog's previous nature documentary, where we were indeed surrounded by breathtaking nature, but we were also viewing the Timothy Treadwell show, put on by the star persona of himself, if there ever were another. Here we meet the actual answer to Treadwell's love to nature. Science, philosophy, mere being in the never ending light over the ices. Herzog seems very much in love with nature, be it ice skies underneath the surface, or active, thundering volcanoes or just the remarkable penguin scene that could break your heart (even Herzog could not resist one of those sentimental scenes directed by nature, despite even claiming early on that this is "not a penguin film"). It may be penguins, but it's hauntingly beautiful nonetheless.

Throughout the movie, Herzog keeps expanding his view on nature and humanity until we reach the end, and the topic we've all been waiting for. The climate change. As you'd expect though Encounters at the End of the World is by no means a propaganda film, it would obviously be beneath Herzog's dignity. No, it seems like Herzog quietly accepts that mankind might be headed for doom - it's as natural as the deranged penguins leaving it's flock to never return - and instead asks what alien lifeforms might think of our remains if they would land to explore in thousands of years. Yes, the explorations goes on. And I think it is importance to remember that the end of the world is not the end of the world. Mother Earth will be alright. She has all the time in the universe. Makind however, we may be getting near the end. I can't help but feel, when I see the colossal, wide, arctic images and the spreading cancerstain of urbanism, that after all mankind has done, Mother Earth deserves to be left alone for a while. There has to be some peace and quiet in the Universe. If the aliens do land, and they do study our hideouts, and they do feel confused over finding a fish deep down in a tunnel in the Antarctica; I'd suggest they'd watch Encounters at the End of the World.
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Best Film of 2008
Chris Barry30 August 2008
'Encounters at the End of the World' is an engrossing, fascinating exploration of what it takes to exist in one of the world's most unforgiving landscapes.

Almost a companion piece to Herzog's earlier poem-like Fata Morgana, the film brings us into a world hidden to almost all but a very chosen few.

There are incredible exchanges between Herzog and his human subjects, who are all researchers studying various aspects of the Antarctic eco-sphere. One such exchange with a cell biologist involves the idea that humans evolved from the ocean to escape what the scientist terms the 'absolute horror' of existence among the extremely vicious, often microscopic 'monsters' that savagely fight for their existence in the frozen waters. Some of these creatures are shown in remarkable underwater photography and it's not hard to see what he means.

Another interview that I found both terrifying and fascinating was one with a journeyman plumber (who also is allegedly related to the Ancient Aztec royalty) about the effects of global warming. I didn't like 'An Inconvenient Truth' and have always been somewhat on the fence about global warming. But the way this man describes global warming set the hairs on my arms on end. The subject is returned to later in the film with several scientists advocating an even bleaker outlook on the topic. Their consensus is that we have already tipped the point of no return and that our existence as humans is already marked for extinction.

As one glacierologist, pointing at a radar screen showing formations of large glaciers puts it: "I don't want to know what happens when that melts." By the way, did you know that seal calls are like the sound of Moog synths and earlier Pink Floyd? I haven't even scratched the surface of this film. There are so many breathtaking moments of sheer rugged beauty that it will bring tears to your eyes.

Do not see this movie on video or DVD. Unlike 'Grizzly Man' which was more of a television format film, "Encounters At the End of The World" is deeply, deeply cinematic.

How many Bat-films do you need to see anyway? Do your brain a favor and lose yourself in 'Encounters at the End of The World'.

Best film of '08 hands down.
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There is No Point that is South of the South Pole
MacAindrais21 December 2008
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.
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Death in the Ice
tedg10 March 2011
There is no denying the man. He has already changed me, and others.

Interestingly, it seems that this is less by design than by accidents that occur because he chooses to put his camera in places where the cosmos is unstable. Sometimes it rewards deeply, because we find our own window into beautiful chaos. Sometimes the experiments fail, and you can see how he has tried to distract us with observations from himself rather than the world he has placed us in.

This is such a failure. He goes, enticed by the promise of cruel, unfathomable beauty. He finds no accident with inherent narrative, so he inserts his own. Unfortunately, Herzog the man and mind is the least interesting element of any Herzog film. I know I am in the minority here, because he has a celebrity persona.

But watch this, and see how he interviews his subjects. He is trying to cast them as beautiful souls doomed be a part of the ugliness of humanity. Some of the interviews are staged or rehearsed. He admits this. I know the words are genuinely from the people who speak them, but the narrative is false. Herzog has this notion — this essentially Austrian notion — that nature is only full when it is cruel, stark and dangerous. Humanity is unnatural; only a few butterfly souls escape, and they are to be cherished.

So look here: we have his usual Wagnerian chorus, using internationally fused sounds. We have some nature, always presented as cosmically unfriendly. We have episodes that underscore the hopeless weakness of society. And we have characters that engage and inspire. But it all seems so desperately constructed here. Whether he likes it or not, he has simply made a penguin film, but with humans.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Werner Herzog goes to Antarctica and shows us the people who live and work there
dbborroughs5 July 2008
Encounters is an almost straight forward account of Werner Herzog going to Antarctica.Invited to go by one of the scientific organizations he agreed to go because he was fascinated by life under the sea ice (see his Wild Blue Yonder which used footage from under the ice to represent an alien world) and wanted to have a chance to film life there. He also warned them it would not result in film about fluffy penguins.

This is not Shackleton's Antarctica. The main US base is more like a mining colony anywhere on the fringes of civilization then what you think of when you think Antarctica. Its strangely modern and looks to be almost anywhere people mine. Indeed there is an odd shot of the modern camp with Scott's hut in the distance that signals how times have changed.

Herzog's film is really about some of the wayward travelers who have reached the frontier. Herzog is curious what sort of people they are and finds them to be a rather philosophical lot. They are what you would consider explorers of the 18th or 19th century looking for something greater then themselves. As one guy says "Where else do you find guys with Phds doing the dishes, or linguists on the one place on earth where there is no native language." Its an amusing portrait of people I think many of us would like to be.

We also get a portrait of what life is like there. Of the eternal sun (which annoys Herzog)Of the drabness of the living quarters (motel like)mixed with individual expression. We see the survival training, the various scientific studies going on (including one about penguins which cause Herzog to ponder if they go mad). and we see the landscape both above and below the ice on land and in the sea. These portraits of the land and seascapes are stunning. Herzog's ability to mix music and image creates some hypnotic passages that in part reminded me Koyaanisqatsi or Luc Besson's Atlantis. Its magical and creates sequences that you hate to see end.

If there is any flaw is that the film kind of just ends. There is a wonderful final quote by Alan Watts, but the film ultimately feels like a philosophical travelogue about a summer vacation instead of something grander then what I saw on my vacation. I'm sure had it not been Werner Herzog behind the camera I would not have been disappointed.

Still you must see the film on a big screen if you can. Its really beautiful at times. It will enlighten and inspire you- much more than this review will. And even though this is a Discovery Channel film, I'm glad I saw it where I did because there is something about the end credits with the seal songs echoing all thorough the theater from front to back that you can't get at home. The long confines of the Film Forum in New York really allows for the magic of a sound scape.

7.5 out of 10
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Good, but Not for a Herzog
adlawn16 July 2008
I am a big fan of Herr Zog. But while Encounters provided me with an overall positive experience, it is a flawed film. First, the good news. Hearing the inorganically musical underwater vocalizations of Weddell seals through the theater's multichannel speaker system was alone worth the price of admission. One of the scientists studying the pinnipeds aptly describes their varied and otherworldly sounds as Pink Floydian. I am also pleased to have beheld extended footage of the magnificent world beneath the sea ice. It is a teeming environment whose surface we are only beginning to scratch, and I cannot blame Herzog for choosing choral background music that perhaps screams "awe" a bit too loudly; there is no danger of it cheapening the majesty of the frozen stalactites or the splendor of the sunlight dispersing through the ice-ceiling. Lastly, I'll note the humor, usually intentional, that Herzog uncharacteristically displays. His Teutonic deadpan is not his only comedic asset; he has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and ample targets among the many dubious denizens of the Antarctic.

My complaints are essentially twofold. First, the movie is disjointed. It is a hodgepodge of Herzog's encounters with various Antarctic researchers and residents; there is no apparent order or theme. This is a minor criticism, as most of the segments make for fine viewing on their own, but it would have been more satisfying if Herzog had presented a unifying thesis or two about the Light Continent (aside from the oft-repeated observation that it is populated by a fair number of "professional dreamers"). He should have at least arranged the segments in a clearly meaningful sequence. At its best, the film made no more of an impression on me than "that was beautiful," "that was cool," or "I didn't know that." Second, and more significantly, Herzog's narration is at times irritating. As someone who has studied climate change, I share his frustration and pessimism. But there is no call for saddling the film's final moments with apocalyptic platitudes (e.g., "the end of human life is assured") and a cursory reference to global warming. These sentiments are incongruous with the rest of the film, which does not substantially address environmentalism and whose most haunting scene is of a mad penguin that abandons its flock and runs inland towards distant mountains, to certain death, with a singular determination. Herzog's doomsayings, in any event, are better communicated by the satellite images of rapidly melting polar ice that we observe on a climatologist's computer screen. I know that Herzog is capable of more measured reflections on the impersonal and uncontrollable power of nature; for example, from Grizzly Man: "what haunts me is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior." In Encounters, Herzog superficially and self-indulgently overstates his case. I'm looking forward to his next film.
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Psychotic Penguins And Other Stories
Joseph Sylvers14 November 2008
Werner Herzog makes Anartica, strange, magical, hypnotic, and relevant, mostly without the use of penguins(who are apparently at turns insane and suicidal prostitutes and swingers).

Some of the images were very familiar to his earlier "Wild Blue Yonder", but the narrative, holds together much stronger here.

Eccentric scientists, and travelers from all over the world, discussing the foundations of evolution, the invisible energies that permeate the cosmos, the constant shift of water and energy just beneath the surface of the ice, they also play guitar and wander around with boxes on their heads.

It's not so much a documentary about "Antartica", the geographical location, but about Antartica as an idea, an image, the people who go there, and why, a little of everything or anything that's is interesting. Though Herzog in voice over gives us a few pet peeves, and doesn't mind talking about not liking a person or place, just as much as finding one interesting, it can get a bit distracting, even annoying...but mostly it's kinda funny, and can break up some of the slower moments.

My favorite Herzog quote is "Documentaries are as close to truth as glaciers are to farting", here, staged as it may or may not be, you can still smell the ice, and it's stinks brilliantly.
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Not your average science documentary
LaFeeChartreuse31 July 2008
Encounters at the End of the World is a quirky and interesting film, definitely a departure from your average dry science documentary or eye-candy nature film, though it has elements of both.

It focuses predominantly on the odd collection of people drawn to live in an Antarctic research station, and to a slightly lesser degree on the oddness of the region itself, and the bizarre bits of scientific trivia that can be found there. Then there the bonus meanderings about the ultimate doom of humanity and whether we originally emerged from the sea onto land to escape the "horror" of marine ecosystems.

Many of its parts are fascinating, but for me, it didn't quite come together as a whole. It drifted in a lot of different directions, but seemed overall to be lacking in focus a bit. There were also a couple of elements that disturbed me a little - one was the inconsistency of talking about how humanity is destroying itself one moment, and then bashing "tree huggers and whale huggers" the next. I guess it's OK to notice that we're damaging the world, but not to try and do something about it? The other was that in some cases he seemed to be going out of his way to depict the people he interviewed in embarrassing ways, with things like leaving the camera lingering on them after the interview appeared to be finished, as they stood nervously, apparently trying to figure out if it was over or not.

But on the whole I would recommend it -- the flaws are offset by some impressive visuals (especially the underwater footage), dry humour, interesting ideas to ponder, and a really great soundtrack by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley, which work very well with the oddness of the content.
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Mixes the sublime and the banal
Howard Schumann7 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If you are looking for answers as to why a red worm lives in the anus of static sea life or the consistency of the milk of a baby seal, you have come to the right place. The latest Werner Herzog documentary, dedicated to Roger Ebert, Encounters at the End of the World, is a study of man and his interaction with nature in the ice-laden rivers, mountains, and shores of Antarctica. Still searching for the bizarre and the eccentric, Herzog takes us as far south as it is possible to go where he meets and, interviews scientists, researchers, travelers, and a variety of oddball characters looking for meaning and purpose. Herzog's documentary is loosely constructed and overly long, freely mixing the sublime and the banal. Like some of his other works, it is filled with gorgeous cinematography, exquisite music, and Herzog's unique commentary spoken in a somber, musical voice that has a distinct poetic quality that strives for profundity.

Herzog was paid by the Discovery Channel and the National Science Foundation to travel to McMurdo Station in Antarctica to gain some insight into the mysteries of the land at the bottom of the world, promising only that he would not come up with another film about penguins. He criticizes McMurdo as an ugly mining town and rails against the noise and the tractors and yoga and aerobics, which he calls an "abomination". His study of course is less about the sex life of the penguins than about the oddball humans and why they have gone to great lengths to travel to the bottom of the earth. We meet a linguist who had studied the disappearance of native languages but is now growing hydroponic tomatoes in a tin hut, a traveler who went from Ecuador to Peru in a sewer pipe, a plumber who is convinced the shape of his hands points to a royal Aztec heritage, and a woman who contorts her body to fit into a gym bag. We see scientist huddled together watching the science fiction thriller "Them" from 1954 and probably films of other genres that even Herzog was not able to include.

We are also privy to a humorous training exercise as Herzog follows a survival class at McMurdo in which trainees put a white bucket over their heads to match the blindness they would encounter in a windstorm. Connected to each other, they search blindly for the trainer who is actually only fifty feet away, perhaps an inadvertent metaphor for humans trying to connect with God. Like all of Herzog's films, there is an upside and perhaps the main reason to see the movie are entrancing underwater ballet sequences of the divers who risk their life every time they plunge in to the freezing waters, shots of the beautiful caves carved in the South Pole, and satellite images of sea ice compressed into an animated montage. Throughout the film, Herzog finds the most beautiful music imaginable – Mongolian chants included with original compositions by experimental composer-guitarist Henry Kaiser, who co-produced the film and provided the music with David Lindley.

All of this beauty strives for a spiritual context but comes up short. Sadly, little attention is paid to subjects such as global warming and how it may affect the future of the region and of mankind. The scientists he interviews are some of the top men in their field but most are convinced that the human race is doomed to extinction, a proposition not challenged by Herzog who is too busy excoriating yoga, penguin movies, aerobics, environmentalists (tree huggers and whale huggers) and asking such questions as whether or not penguins are gay or insane. Perhaps the most telling sequence is the one, most probably staged by Herzog, in which an individual penguin refuses to follow the group heading to open water, but instead opts for a lonely and sad journey to the mountains, likely to result in certain death. It tells more perhaps about Herzog than about penguins or the human condition.
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Don't Look for Science
Postoasted1 February 2009
For the life of me I couldn't figure out what the main idea of the documentary was. First it was very, very shallow in its science and equally shallow in presenting and introducing the people who live and work in Antarctica. As others have mentioned, this film is disjointed and haphazard. I suspect that this production was made with some serious time constraints on the part of Mr. Herzog. He seems to be perceived as more of a nuisance by some of the personnel he has on film. This is probably due to the ambivalent like questions he asks. Asking questions to only provoke a response instead of from a passion of scientific curiosity or genuine interest in the personal lives of the people there will get you bad camera reaction. I felt like the people were only "cannon fodder" for his camera. One final criticism is that I found the cinematography only mildly interesting. I don't think IMAX would have helped out either.
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an actual Antarctic worker comments
heydemann16 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Well, as someone who spent seasons at McMurdo and at the South Pole I can say Herzog got some things right. There really is trouble when Frosty Boy goes down, and the sky is amazing in its own right down on the Ice. I just wish he had brought a bit less of his agenda and let more of the actual place show in his film. I'm sorry the reality of keeping science going on the Ice is somewhat messier than Mr. Herzog would like. Having seen the trash heaps of the "great" Antarctic explorers, when they were here I'm sure they were just as messy and even smellier. Also, there are about 1000 people who work on the Ice making it possible for the science to happen. The four chosen to represent the community are nice people, but no more or less "typical" than any of us whom he did not chose to show. I know he filmed a bunch more people-I was there when he did so. Not only is the soundtrack horrible but the ambient sound is heavily edited too. No flight down from NZ is silent-everyone has earplugs in and the roar still rattles your brain. The choppers are noisy too, as are all of the various vehicles. It would have been nice to get some of the huge silence that you find anywhere more than 5 minutes walk from the center of Town. And the science-the main reason we go down year after year- was treated as sort of a joke. These researchers have a very short time to do all of their field work-most are there for less than 3 months. To have to put up with a film crew asking idiotic questions was an intrusion that they really didn't need. And there's way better footage available of the under-ice marine life-it was just taken by other divers. You could do very well watching this with the sound off and subtitles rolling. As for how Herzog got his grant; the NSF gives out 5 or 6 artist grants every year. They want to expand the type of exposure that Antarctica is given, as well as record a different type of human interaction with the environment. One of the other art works that happened that year was a set of blue spheres in different sizes set out on the ice and filmed from the air and by satellite. It was pretty cool. And I know nothing about the sturgeon under the South Pole.
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Poems from the Regulator
dalefried5 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
What to make of a travelogue on a nearly empty landscape filled in by one of the most eclectic artists of our time. One certainly should take no expectations entering the theatre before viewing this. But when early on Werner Herzog makes the fatalistic pronouncement, 'We will be regulated,' watch out.

And be assured that a film done by a provocative auteur along with effectively his crew of one bankrolled by interesting sources of money is not going to be something for Travel Channel aficionados. It is far, far more.

Though science is at the center of most quests on the continent, Herzog focuses much of the film on the interesting souls who have fallen to the bottom of the world to help out. Passing by their purpose in the enterprise, the director concentrates on a series of humorous poems on who they are and how they got there. Interspersing this with some of the startling imagery NSF and the Discover Channel sent him down there to get leads to this being one of the most engaging documentaries you will ever see.

But that is what you get when you send a guy like Herzog on a mission. This is best shown in a hilarious moment when he asks questions of the penguin researcher who would rather watch penguins than talk to people. While prying answers from this shy soul, Herzog gets a lead on observable madness in penguins. This segues to a wonderful sequence on the phenomena of some of the birds suddenly running off to the inner nothingness of the continent and their demise, the reasons likely left to the understanding of the lemmings.

Science catches up at the end, however, with discourses on active super volcano researchers and those in the quest to capture neutrino activity. On the one hand you have guys contemplating the inevitable eruption of a monster three times the size of the one under Yellowstone that might end our time on Earth. On the other you have those trying to understand a particulate that may represent the echo of the Big Bang and offer the key component in our understanding of time and other prescient things.

At closure the film offers that our next great race may be to discover a far deeper understanding of the universe before our species implodes to the relics we have left in those endless Antarctic ice caves, deferring to future intelligence, if any, to determine whether our quest was worthwhile.

The images of a last stand for humanity trying to understand itself before the Regulator steps in should put everyone that sees this majestic film into a place of provocative speculation. Only an adventurous, risk taking filmmaker like Herzog would even attempt this let alone pull it off with such verve.
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A Lot Of Interesting Moments To Someone Unfamiliar With Antarctica
Kyle Hodgdon26 January 2010
I thought that "Encounters at the End of the World" was a very good look at several different people's lives who live in Antarctica. One of my favorite things about this movie is how it does not focus on only one group of people in Antarctica, but instead sheds a little bit of light on many different aspects. It shows everyone from truck drivers, to seal researchers, to divers, to construction workers.

There are a lot of interesting things that the audience gets to view in this film. From how life in McMurdo looks, to the divers and the creatures that they see under the water, to how some of the penguins run around and act; it is all really neat to get a look at.

Of the negative reviews that I have read about this movie, many stated that he did not focus enough on all the in-depth science that was occurring. It's true that he did not, but that was not the point of this film. This film was meant to give a basic, on the surface overview of one man's experience of his trip to Antarctica.

Other negative reviews that I read said that Herzog had his own agenda in Antarctica and spent too much time with his own voice overs and opinions. Again, this film focuses on Herzog's experience and views. I felt like his voice overs were appropriate. I like his thoughts shared throughout the course of the movie.

This movie does not play like a show you might see on the Discovery Channel. It does not deeply focus on any one thing, but instead shows a little about a lot of different things. If you do not know much about life in Antarctica and want to see a broad scope of it, this is a very good movie to see.
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Wasted opportunity
Julien5 December 2008
The beautiful scenery can't make up for the horrible editing and the even worse narrating. This movie could have been so much more, but apparently Werner Herzog has no clue whatsoever on how to achieve anything that goes beyond a nice sunset. It really is more kind of a crappy home video. The best part was when Werner Herzog explained what the linguist in the greenhouse was talking about by simply giving a horrible voice-over. Why wouldn't he just let him give a short explanation on location? He did have the time... If you're into beautiful pictures, you might want to see this movie with the volume turned all the way down. It gets watchable.
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This film depicts Antartica like it never seen before..
Michael Nathaniel16 September 2008
Most of us think that Antartica is a frozen dead land, most of us maybe doesn't even know that there is a civilization, a goddamn city with around 1000 people who stayed there each summer. This movie really brings a new perspective to the most unknown continent in our world, how is life in there, especially the people, the inhabitants who can proudly say "I'm ANTARTICAN!!" to the world. This film is mainly about the story of people who live in Antartica, a documentary about their own personal experience of leaving their home and human civilization behind, and sought the new life of adventure and traveling. We are shown a wide array of personal experiences from a physics professor in search of some hypothetical particles to runaway prisoner who has been taking refuge in Antartica.

Aside from the new insight about life in Antartica, this film also provides us with some brilliant shot about the landscape in Antartica, the underwater shot is extremely beautiful,but they could have done better with the shot on the mountain and stuff. The director also includes some weird ambient 1920's or 30's movie clip that somewhat doesn't really makes sense. And finally, the message of this movie is kind a ambiguous, it doesn't make any real statement about the global warming effects on Antartica, or anything else for us to do. It is somewhat usual kind of Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary, which only show us some information without really adding some statement or opinion about it. It's just like the usual education movie we see in our environmental or biology class.

In the nutshell, this movie really gives us a brand new view about Antartica, but nothing more. If you are expecting a brain beating conscience knocking documentary about some untold true story in some part of the world like Jesus Camp or An Inconvenient Truth this is not a film for you..
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An icy/banal documentary
Paul1 July 2009
Boorish and banal.

The last vestiges of societal outcasts and the futile attempts to justify their relevance by chasing obscure theoretical evidence of the origins of life and the finality of global warming.

This film does more to elevate the hypocrisy of their scientific ideologies rather than it does to support their theories.

Herzog aimlessly wanders the periphery and interiors of Antarctica with little to no coherent theme. The inhabitants of the Antarctic outposts prove to be less than desirable subjects for interviews. The only common bond that they seem to emote is the fact that each has a story of disassociation from society and Antarctica is their last hope for relevance before they fall into an ash heap of obscurity.
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The Anarctic is not as boring as you might think
spk0727 July 2008
This is a documentary about the everyday life of living in a antarctic station. I got to say I was surprised that it didn't just go the route of exploring the the landscape and wildlife and such. I enjoyed the wry outlook Werner Herzog had on all of this.

Unfortunately, the film did not move at a brisk enough pace and it kinda ended on a whimper. I am not saying documentaries have to appeal to the action movie crowd. I know this takes place in a barren wasteland but Herzog could have injected a little more humor and thrust into the proceedings. All too often, I found myself dozing off. Maybe I was just too tired the day I saw this because I am usually fascinated by documentaries so I am going to cut this film some slack.

Still, the visuals are fantastic and Herzog has an excellent understanding of the goings-on of an Artic station. I have definitely garnered a better appreciation of what goes on and wouldn't mind working in one. It looks like a lot of fun.
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A sexy synopsis, but no cigar.
azcoppen4 November 2008
I'm sure this documentary had a really good point and moving purpose, but it somehow escaped me simply because of how incredibly boring it is. I was expecting beautiful photography, unique and bizarre life, and to learn lots of weird things about how strange the world can be. So it starts on a good premise: why we are so fascinated with exploiting lower species when there is so much to be fascinated with in the world itself. Fair enough. After that, it's about as engrossing as diarrhoea. It's nerd porn. Scientists that are a little too sedate to eccentric, big chunks of ice and a Swedish accent for the narrative. I rarely turn movies off halfway as you should keep the door open for potential redemption, but as i was feeling my eyelids drop, enough was enough. I'm sure it will be great material for stoners in the back of school classrooms who need a few hours off to sober up instead of answering teacher questions and doing academic work, but if you want a compelling story, some intellectual pace and effectual production that makes you think and leaves you to wonder, you'd be better off with something from the BBC's archive. You can't fault the passion and fascination of the producers, but it comes down to one thing: sometimes its best just to keep the filming of your hobbies for the home camcorder and lab's pizza evenings in, and not release them to the general public expecting them to be as glazed over in the same way you are.
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Ice,Snow & Global Warming
Seamus282920 July 2008
For anybody who considers themselves an ardent environmentalist, this is the film for you. Werner Herzog (Aguirre,The Wrath Of God,Fitzcarraldo,etc.) seems to be on a documentary kick of recent (check out his excellent 'Grizzly Man'from a few years back). The film was shot entirely in Antarctica, and is a plea to cut back on global warming. It is beautifully filmed,with some stunning music,as well as some natural environmental sound,too. This is just another in the long line of quality film making that Herzog has bestowed the world with for over 30 years. You can even bring the youngsters to this one (no profanity,nudity,or graphic violence here,gang). I eagerly look forward to his next film project.
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Quirky film of ice and snow
MarkVanKamp28 January 2008
I had no expectations for this new film from Werner Herzog. I have seen many of this maverick filmmakers films before and some are good and some didn't quite live up to Herzog's previous efforts. "Encounters at the End of the World" was very interesting and funny. Now, I admit that I have never seen a film made in Antarctica, so I knew I would at least enjoy the visuals that Herzog has found on his journeys. This film, however, was full of very interesting and funny and quirky people who live in Antarctica. It is so far away and so cold, that probably, the truly insane and/or adventurous go there to get away from the rest of us in our big cities and such. The visuals of life in Antarctica and life under the ice were quite moving and powerful. I will never go to Antarctica, but thanks to Mr. Herzog, I do not have to!
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Revealing, fascinating documentary about the South Pole
tnrcooper19 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Werner Herzog, after seeing some footage of Antarctica from a researcher there, is persuaded to cover the researchers, the environment and work done in the Antarctic. Herzog's inquisitive mind is typically drawn in multiple different directions and in reading some some criticisms of the film, the absence of a clear focus is the film's largest shortcoming. However, I think this is cutting off the nose to spite the hand. How many of these people knew anything of significance about the South Pole? I would suggest not all that many, and this film is useful in educating people about multiple aspects of life in Antarctica.

He is interested in the array of fascinating people who end up working down there. There is a PhD driving a tractor, a dishwasher who is a philosopher, and a lady who traveled across Europe and Africa in a sewage pipe. People who are willing to work in Antarctica are fascinating for their broad outlooks on all topics. I say this as someone who has lived in multiple countries and had many very interesting jobs himself. I found their introspective, thoughtful points-of-view on complex, multi-leveled problems, to be very helpful.

Herzog also does a fascinating section on penguin behavior, including the fact that sometimes penguins walk away from the pack of penguins in which they live, over mountains and into the snowy wilderness, toward certain death. I was fascinated to learn just how big the Antarctic was. Herzog's attention to penguins is also devoted to how some penguins prostitute themselves in order to keep their eggs warm. In short, Herzog's interest in penguins is certainly not that of most conventional documentarians who might want to depict the lives and experiences of penguins in a rather upbeat, feel-good manner.

Herzog also offers us some interesting footage of the main Antarctic settlement at McMurdo station from above and we see a sprawling, rather industrial and dirty-looking settlement there. We learn of some of the conveniences there-a bowling lane, several modern restaurants, and a couple other places that would not be out of place in Peoria, IL.

Herzog's coverage of the marine life in the Antarctic, and the work of the scientists who investigate the nature of that life is very interesting insofar as the marine life there is very odd and the scientists discover new species all the time. The scientists seem fascinated by the the simplicity of the species and just how old or complex those species are. One of the scientists working there is completing his last day of work as a scientist and decides to do his last dive as a scientist the day that Herzog is filming there. The scientists express great dismay and pessimism about the future of life on this planet given some of the things that they see in the South Pole Truly, if you want a fascinating, unconventional look at life in a place about which very little is known, this is a great place to start.
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