Watching this movie was kind of a strange experience. I believe I had seen this movie before but I only remembered a few scenes. I assume I saw this in one of my film classes in college, which would explain why I don’t remember a lot, but I’m really glad we watched this. It’s a movie that’s easy to get lost in and before you know it, the credits are scrolling by.
What makes Encounters at the End of the World so great is its connection to both nature and man. The setup of the film is that Werner Herzog is going to the South Pole to film. That’s pretty much it. But what makes the movie are the types of characters that are in the South Pole and what brought them there in the first place. This movie feels like a way more successful The Parking Lot Movie. Where The Parking Lot Movie is interested in philosophy students/adults parking cars, Encounters at the End of the World has a much more interesting subject base, while still staying focused on one constant, they all ended up in the South Pole. While weaving in and out of individuals’ lives, their stories also reveal the beauty of the South Pole as a giant monument within nature.
This movie is wonderful and really ended before I was ready for it to. This is a movie I would love to see what kind of behind of scenes footage there might be. Along with individuals who might of told a story but ended up on the cutting room floor.
At this point I’ve probably seen Encounters at the End of the World about five times. Of all the types of movies I watch repeatedly, documentaries are way down on the list. But there’s just something about Encounters at the End of the World; the first time I finished watching it, I just immediately wanted to watch it again.
First, you’ve got the narration of director Werner Herzog. Herzog’s narration is like no other, from the sound of his voice to the shit he says. He’s funny, weird, and completely genuine. He treats the characters he meets with such care and respect that even when he pokes fun at them a little, it seems to come from a place more of respect and awe than actual ridicule.
Then you’ve got the images themselves. There are several long sequences in Encounters at the End of the World that show nothing but ocean life against intense choral music. That sounds boring, and maybe it would be from another director, but instead these sequences just put you in this crazy, nature-induced-trance. Everything looks so crazy and surreal. But of course, there’s also all the shots that take place above water of the seemingly endless Antarctic landscape. The scenery is very beautiful and all the animals are pretty cute, so it’s also not boring. But probably the biggest element to Encounters at the End of the World is the people of Antarctica. I assumed everyone in Antarctica would be some kind of scientist or engineer. While that is still mostly true, there’s also a good amount of just random characters who for one reason or another just sort of ended up in Antarctica, like a long-winded linguist who works with greenhouse plants (as he points out, he found himself to be a linguist in a land without its own language). As much as nature intrigues Herzog, he’s obviously just as, if not more, interested in the people. I don’t blame him, either; so many different people came from such crazy situations to find themselves in Antarctica it would be hard to not just interview every single person you came across.
I honestly can’t say enough about Encounters at the End of the World. Even if you somehow hated the movie, you’d still have plenty of Herzog dialogue to make fun of.