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Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

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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 & 14 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

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Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

18 July 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Rencontres au bout du monde  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,730, 15 June 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$943,934, 2 November 2008
See more on IMDbPro »

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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

Werner Herzog: For me, the best description of hunger is the description of bread. A poet said that once I think. For me, the best description of freedom is what you have in front of you. You're travelling a lot.
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Connections

Featured in Into the Inferno (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Planino Stara Planino Mari
Written by Stefan Dragostinov
Performed by The Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble
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User Reviews

Good, but Not for a Herzog
16 July 2008 | by See all my reviews

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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