Sunday, October 19, 2008

[TIFF 2008 Review] Encounters at the End of the World

Ice Age

Trust Werner Herzog to come up with an engaging documentary such as this, where he was on the invite of the National Science Foundation to visit the community of scientists at McMurdo Station over at the Antarctica, and of course, couldn't pass up not documenting his exploration of the ice continent, which was showcased by The Discovery Channel. But this is by no means something that was made for television, being shot in High Definition which brought out the glorious visuals, aesthetically looking or otherwise, for all and sundry to enjoy.

But this is not just penguins and icebergs, or interviews that go on about highly scientific knowledge given the background of his interview subjects. Instead, it took a very humanistic look at life at the Station, as well as these individuals as persons, their dreams and experiences. And his subjects, or at least those that make it to the film, are nothing short of fascinating, and seems to all have a few things in common, that is the drive to want to venture off the well trodden path, and being “professional dreamers” in their own right.

And it's not just presenting only the positive side of things, or a promotional video for the Station, which Herzog, who narrated this feature, had mentioned he would not do. There's a fair balance of viewpoints, some which are left to an audience to make the judgement call, while others you can hear his outright disapproval, sometimes laced with quick wit and sarcasm. While the scientists are there for research to make the world a better place, and to understand this last frontier on the globe, you can't help but notice the construction landscape the colony has created, as if it is ingrained in man to ravage the land he resides in, and alter Nature for the provision of some ridiculous creature comforts.

I suppose one still cannot get away from not covering something about the penguins when in the Antarctica. Herzog goes one step further to cover the different camps at the continent, for the audience to grasp the extent of scientific research and exploration, at the same time eliciting candid views about life in isolation, and listen in to sights and sounds unheard of, with every interview subject each posessing very unique and interesting stories to tell. There are some survival tips here that prove to be valuable, not that I'll have a chance to visit the continent, but are common sense stuff that you're likely to appreciate from.

Featured as part of the natural TIFF program in line with this year's TIFF theme, it's definitely not something to be missed!

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