Encounters at the End of the World

Saturday, August 13 - Monday, August 15, 2016

“Few filmmakers make the end of days seem as hauntingly beautiful as Werner Herzog does, or as inexorable. In his documentary ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, this professional madman and restlessly curious filmmaker travels to the blinding white of the Antarctic, where he meets melancholic scientists, brooding journeymen and various poets of the soul who, ensconced in the American headquarters, McMurdo Station, have traveled so far beyond the familiar coordinates — so far beyond traditional cities, suburbs and banal existence — that they might as well be on another planet.

“Call it Planet Herzog. Though I’m certain that the men and the smattering of women in the documentary are far from ordinary — their fantastic milieu and haunted eyes suggest as much — part of what makes them memorable is how Mr. Herzog weaves them into his story. And make no mistake: from his familiar droning voice-over to his ethereally lovely images and stubborn fatalism, this is very much Werner Herzog’s story of the Antarctic and not, as he intimates right up front, a heartfelt tale of ‘fluffy’ penguins, an easy swipe at the palatable pleasures of the documentary March of the Penguins. Though there are, as it happens, some penguins here too, most memorably a Herzogean creature that may trouble your dreams.

“Like many of Mr. Herzog’s movies, fiction and nonfiction, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD itself has the quality of a dream: it’s at once vivid and vague, easy to grasp and somehow beyond reach. Its inspiration can be found in his 2005 movie, The Wild Blue Yonder, a self-described science fiction fantasy (about outer and inner spaces, for starters) that mixes fiction with nonfiction. Its most striking nonfiction moments come courtesy of the underwater video images shot in the Antarctic by his friend and sometime composer, the guitarist Henry Kaiser, of divers swimming in the eerie blue under a shelf of crystal ice. (Mr. Kaiser produced this new movie and, with David Lindley, did its plaintive, effective string-centric music.)

“…If this were a nature documentary like any other, the casual talk about global warming and other calamities might cast shadows across this bright expanse. But there’s something about Mr. Herzog — including the accidental if now well-practiced comedy that colors even his most dramatic pronouncements — that inevitably keeps his pictures from growing too dark. One reason is beauty, which in his hands has a way of keeping the worst at bay; it is, after all, hard to fully despair in the face of so much of the natural world’s splendors. Another reason, I think, has to do with Mr. Herzog’s seemingly unshakable faith in human beings, who for all their misdeeds at times reach a state of exaltedness. They soar — just like that jellyfish.” –New York Times

Part of the series Ecstatic Truths: Documentaries by Herzog

  • Director Werner Herzog

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