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Encounters at the End of the World

94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the most hostile, barren, alien environment on the planet - you meet the most interesting people. Welcome to Antarctica - like you've never experienced it. You've seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaciers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning, iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) to be the first to explore the South Pole's most fascinating inhabitants...humans. In this one-of-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, "professional dreamers" who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty - perhaps the last frontier on earth.

Just about anywhere Werner Herzog goes becomes an interesting place, in part because the director shapes it with his distinctively sardonic eye. In Encounters at the End of the World, the 'Zog heads off to Antarctica, finding there a population of unusual people, hallucinatory underwater life, and penguins. He doesn't appear on camera, but the unmistakably Teutonic Herzog voice is very much with us all the time, a baleful tour guide for this blank destination. In the human outposts of Antarctica, Herzog finds the kind of people you might expect would gravitate to the edge of existence--the curious, the oddball, the wanderers who've run out of other places to explore. He finds some deadpan hilarity, especially in filming a communication drill involving people practicing blizzard conditions (they wear buckets over their heads while roped together). The underwater photography (a realm previously explored in Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder) is by Henry Kaiser, and it meshes perfectly with the director's interest in alien eye-scapes. And when Herzog finally does find penguins, his imagination goes to the idea that some penguins go insane, scurrying off into their own suicidal directions. This isn't as arresting a film as Grizzly Man, but it is an entertaining travelogue spiked with quirky observations. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Werner Herzog, Scott Rowland, Stefan Pashov, Doug MacAyeal, Ryan Andrew Evans
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Writers: Werner Herzog
  • Producers: Andrea Meditch, Dave Harding, Erik Nelson, Henry Kaiser, Julian Hobbs
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001DWNUD8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,059 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Encounters at the End of the World" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By H. Kaiser on October 27, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What the current Amazon listing does not explicitly mention is the wealth of DVD EXTRAS that accompany the 100 minute feature in this 2-DVD set.


+ a hidden "Easter Egg" extra: SEAL MEN, an Antarctic Parody of Herzog's GRIZZLY MAN, with weddell seals replacing grizzly bears

to access this Easter Egg:
on page 2 of the extras
highlight the exorcism extra
then move the cursor to the right
and the highlight will disappear
then press enter
this will open the secret and hidden easter egg extra: SEAL MEN

all and all this is over 3 hours of EXTRAS!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Son Goku on August 6, 2009
Format: DVD
This film is as much about the people who reside and work in Antarctica as it is about the work they are doing there. A bus driver, a mechanic, and others with stated and unstated occupations are featured doing art in their room, playing guitar, watching a black and white sci-fi film, and standing outside of a piece of construction equipment. The philosopher standing outside of his construction vehicle was very moving, it was almost as if he was getting choked up describing Antarctica and philosophy. He was my favorite character in the film.

Several scientists are also followed in their work, including a couple of volcanologists, a cell biologist, a penguin scientist (Dr. David Ainley), a particle astrophysicist (Dr. Peter Gorhan), and more including divers. Their work is interesting but several awkward moments are allowed to film, but that is the filmmakers style, not indicative of bad editing.

The sheer beauty of Antarctica does not come across as well as in other films I have seen, but I did find this one to be the most realistic films of life in Antarctica. The filmmaker stated he was not going to Antarctica to "make another penguin film".

The underwater scenes are quite fascinating and beautiful. They were the primary reason I sought out this film and they are the best parts. Russian Orthodox music is infused with the glorious underwater sea life, creating a memorable moment in film that you may never forget.
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28 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Georg Einarsson on March 6, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Since other reviewers have adequately summarized this film, I'll skip straight to what I thought were the best and worst qualities of "Encounters":


- The filming itself is brilliant, as you'd expect from Herzog. The contrast beetween the spellbinding landscape and the banal living quarters of its inhabitants is striking.

- The interviews provide terrific insight into the passion and curiousity that is necessary to subject oneself to living, even temporarily, in the most inhospitable land on the planet.

- The footage of the Antarctic Ocean floor is truly otherwordly. The creatures beneath the "frozen sky" are beyond even the most imaginative science fiction writers.

- There are approximately three hours of extra footage contained in the extra features on disc one and disc two, including segments of footage taken above and below the frozen surface. There is also a 90 minute interview of Werner Herzog conducted by acclaimed director Jonathan Demme, which is very interesting and, for me, worth the price of admission.


- The film's interviews are often laden with scientific jargon that I suspect will alienate a general audience. I found the content of the interviews fascinating, albeit completely over my head.

- As other reviewers have noted, the interviews with the so-called "commoners" that were not in Antarctica for scientific study were too short. I felt that insufficient time was spent on telling their stories.

- While many of Herzog's observations and contemplations are fascinating, they never seem to connect to a larger theme or thesis.
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28 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Alan Lawn on October 11, 2008
Format: DVD
I am a big fan of Herr Zog. But while "Encounters" provided me with an overall positive experience, it is a flawed film. First, the good news. Hearing the inorganically musical underwater vocalizations of Weddell seals through the theater's multichannel speaker system was alone worth the price of admission. One of the scientists studying the pinnipeds aptly describes their varied and otherworldly sounds as Pink Floydian. I am also pleased to have beheld extended footage of the magnificent world beneath the sea ice. It is a teeming environment whose surface we are only beginning to scratch, and I cannot blame Herzog for choosing choral background music that perhaps screams "awe" a bit too loudly; there is no danger of it cheapening the majesty of the frozen stalactites or the splendor of the sunlight dispersing through the ice-ceiling. Lastly, I'll note the humor, usually intentional, that Herzog uncharacteristically displays. His Teutonic deadpan is not his only comedic asset; he has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and ample targets among the many dubious denizens of the Antarctic.

My complaints are essentially twofold. First, the movie is disjointed. It is a hodgepodge of Herzog's encounters with various Antarctic researchers and residents; there is no apparent order or theme. This is a minor criticism, as most of the segments make for fine viewing on their own, but it would have been more satisfying if Herzog had presented a unifying thesis or two about the Light Continent (aside from the oft-repeated observation that it is populated by a fair number of "professional dreamers"). He should have at least arranged the segments in a clearly meaningful sequence. At its best, the film made no more of an impression on me than "that was beautiful," "that was cool," or "I didn't know that.
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