‘Encounters at the End of the World’ Review: Professional Dreamers

Posted in The Screening Room by - May 16, 2016

For my second feature film of Herzog Month, I watched Encounters at the End of the World. Unlike Invincible, this month’s feature was a documentary, and the documentary form is where Werner Herzog truly showcases his style and personality. This week’s film was far better than last weeks though it is safe to say that Encounters is still extremely Herzogian.

Encounters at the End of the World follows Werner and his crew as they travel to the south pole to study not only the majestic beauty of nature but also the men and women who choose to spend years of their life in the vast frozen land that is Antartica. The feature is packed to the brim with awe-inspiring visuals and amusing little anecdotes about life at McMurdo Station. Herzog climbs into the flash frozen tunnels left by volcanic steam eruptions. He speaks in length to a linguist about the feverish pace of the extinction of language. He dives beneath the frozen bays, examining the life that somehow manages to exist and thrive in a climate that would kill an unprepared human being. He even spends a substantial chunk of time contemplating the existence of insanity and depression in penguins. The visuals and the content of the documentary are all excellent.

The problems I have with the film are less easy to explain. They are primarily issues with stylistic choices. Herzog enjoys long, lingering shots of both landscapes and humans. Personally, I feel that any shot of a man standing still and awkwardly shifting in front of a camera waiting for direction should be kept below twenty seconds in length. Another issue is that the feature has little in the way of actual information. Much of the non-visual content is the expected existential musings about human nature or the impending and relatively unnoticed flash death of humanity that Herzog is known for. With so much exciting and entertaining activity on the screen, it is almost disappointing to learn so little about it beyond the philosophical.

All things considered, Encounters at the End of the World is an entertaining documentary that examines the philosophical implications and ideas of nature, purity, the Earth, our impact on our world, and our relative place in the universe. While it may not be in my top ten favorite films of all time, it is certainly worth a watch, and if you particularly enjoy the style of Herzog’s other features, then you will surely enjoy Encounters at the End of the World.

Final Say: Watch It

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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn’t watching movies he’s playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.

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