After Grizzly Man, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Werner Herzog’s new film about Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World. Fortunately, it didn’t contain any gory man-eating scenes, yet nor was it a simpering penguins-on-ice movie. Yes, we got the awe-inspiring sweeping landscapes you’d typically see in a nature documentary but the most enjoyable aspects of the film were the scenes of gentle humour when we met the cast of down-to-earth, yet slightly odd characters, mostly scientists whom Herzog referred to as professional dreamers.
Before Herzog and his crew are allowed to leave McMurdo base (an ugly dug-up barren industrial town), they must complete a survival course. In one of the funniest moments in the film, the teacher trains the students to survive white-out conditions by making them wear white buckets over their heads as they totter around blindly.
After training, they travel out to various parts of the continent, where they meet a physicist who releases a giant white balloon into the stratosphere to study neutrinos, animal researchers who milk huge seals as part of their study to find a fat-burning cell, a pipefitter who believes he is descendant of the Aztec royal family, a volcanologist who advise Herzog to ‘face the crater, look up and step aside’ when a volcano erupts and a group of scientists gently lying down on the ice, listening to the Pink Floyd other-wordly sounds made by seals in the water.