May 6, 2008

On the Horizon: Encounters at the End of the World

THINKFilm and Discovery Films present Encounters at the End of the World, a new documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man).

Ever been to Antarctica? Me neither, believe it or not. I'd say we both have about the same chance of going to the moon as we do getting down to South Pole. Fortunately, people like Werner Herzog bring it to us with films like Encounters at the End of the World, a bizarre look at a bizarre place and the bizarre people and animals who inhabit it. No, not Eskimos - you're in the wrong hemisphere (and they're not bizarre). I'm talking about about a place where the sun's in the sky for five months. Straight. Where people on the fringes of society conduct science experiments that we'll never understand. Where the creatures from your nightmares live.

Werner Herzog shows us this world with equal parts humor and affection, both of which are accidental to his always funny monotone narration. The people he interviews are primarily scientists: scuba diving cell biologists, death-defying volcanologists, and a guy studying neutrinos with a massive helium balloon, just to name a few.

If listening to brainiacs talk about how much they love the end of the world doesn't do it for you, consider checking it out for the scenery. The deep sea is one of my greatest fears, and though this was fully reinforced by the film, there is one majestic tracking sequence underwater that I found incredibly beautiful. It was literally otherworldly, and it left me slack-jawed.

There's currently no trailer for Encounters at the End of the World, but I'll amend the post if and when one materializes. In the meantime you can check out the misleading stills on the official website. None of them show the many people we meet, nor do we really get sense that the film is actually about anything. But it is. It's about the end of the world, and there's no place like it.

Make the journey if you're so moved, and find my full review when Encounters at the End of the World opens on June 11th.

UPDATE (6/4/08): Trailer is up, check it out at The Documentary Blog.


  1. I love Herzog, and this is way at the top of my list of things to see. The guy is unlike any other filmmaker working today.

  2. I got to see this at the Nashville Film Festival. Herzog really is the man.

    I love his lines throughout:

    “This unobtrusive building had raised my curiosity for quite a while.”

    “How did he end up in this place?”

    “Behind each door is a person with a story to tell.”

  3. He's coming off some strong material, Evan - both Dawn and Grizzly were some of the best of the last few years. I think you'll enjoy this one as well.

    Glad you liked it, Joseph. I'm itching for a trailer and I wish I could remember more of the lines! But even if I could - without his dry delivery it just doesn't sound right.

  4. I'm so sad that I missed this at the IFF in Boston. I'm glad to hear you liked it. Makes me look forward to seeing it even more. It looks like what the end of Wild Blue Yonder looks like, and I loved that.

  5. It's not a major miss, Justin, but I think it may lose a lot on DVD. If you're planning on seeing it and have another chance in the theater, do it then. If not, well it's still a pretty good look at an amazing place.

    Also, I forgot to mention that Encounters is dedicated to Roger Ebert. Literally, "For Roger Ebert" is the last frame of the film. Check out the lovefest (not in that way) between the two on Herzog's website.

  6. I really want to see this too - Herzog is the man!

    Look forward to that review :)

  7. It'll be an interesting one, Nick, and one that I need to write soon. Another movie that could be loved or hated, depending on your preference for weirdness. Herzog fans should enjoy it.


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