Encounters at the End of the World
Landmark Lumiere Theatre
June 28, 2008
"The Wild Blue Yonder" is one of my favorite movies from the last couple years. It's also one of director Werner Herzog's wackier cinematic visions: the loose story of an alien invasion, as told through actual NASA footage of astronauts and incredible shots of the underwater life in Antarctica. Herzog’s new movie, “Encounters at the End of the World,” takes you back to Antarctica, only the stories he tells here are stranger than fiction. The movie is a documentary about the types of people who collect at the South Pole, the people who, as one resident puts it, “aren’t strapped down to Earth so they fall down there together” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the sentiment).
Herzog captures communities studying the elements of Antarctica, everything from icebergs and penguins to volcanoes and particles invisible to the human eye. Herzog also captures a number of idiosyncrasies: from one scientists’ passion for screening doomsday science fiction films to a death-courting penguin’s run to the hills. As always, Herzog’s eye for detail is as sharp as his humor, and it’s entertaining to hear his take on life in the icy wild (where he calls the man-made yoga and aerobics centers “abominations”) displayed bluntly. Other times his dry wit is less obvious in its jabs, but still makes you laugh (one janitor convinced he has “Mayan hands”). It’s rare that you get a director this capable of teaching you about a completely different way of life without getting overly reverent or overly judgmental. “Encounters at the End of the World” lingered in my head and my conversations long after the movie ended. –-Jennifer Maerz