180° South: Conquerors of the Useless [Blu-ray]
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This film is the narrative of one man who is disaffected by the excesses of society and tries to simplify his life by casting himself into the unknown of adventure. With the goal of being the second person to climb Corcovado Volcano in Patagonia, he follows in the footsteps of several men who came before him in the 1960s. The message is a positive one of conservationism, and by just watching the protagonist trek around, you'll wish you were there getting lost with him. It is beautifully shot with an equally great soundtrack of subdued folk songs, including Mason Jennings' recent hit which is featured during the end credits.
But, the film's positive message is easily lost in the narcissism and vainglory of its characters. Through their own terrible self-narration, they come across as overly privileged, preachy, self-righteous, White bourgeois whiners. With their strong anti-corporate and anti-government bias, one is left only to feel that they are arrogant, hypocritical slackers who want the world out of their way so they can have a good time. The protagonist shows none of the modesty inherent to conservationism and spends much time preening around with his shirt off. There is much irony in how he criticizes everyone from city dwellers to video-game players, when it is the indentured condition of these groups which allows him the freedom to be a slacker and explore the natural world.
Also, the film's presentation of the collapse of Easter Island society is one-sided without nuance or context. The film argues that present day civilization is heading towards a similar collapse if we don't change our ways and live like the characters presented in the film.Read more ›
There's a lot of themes packed in there, and every time I watch I get a different message. The most important message to me is that on the surface, climbing and surfing and sailing and traveling might be "useless" activities that in and of themselves don't contribute anything to the world - but they make us better people, and focus our attention on our place in the world and the simultaneous tiny footprint we have as individuals as well as our collective enormous impact as a species.
I love this film.
The subtitle, Conquerors of the Useless, refers principally to the whole activity of mountain-climbing. Risking your very life--for what? To stand for a few minutes or an hour on top of a piece of rock, then climb back down again. Does the world need this activity? Why do some people feel compelled to do it (or so many other extreme things that we seem compelled to do, for no clear gain) That becomes a metaphor for the whole question of what is "useful" and what is "useless"--for the world, for mankind as a species, for our survival.
The narrator solemnly asserts things like, "I'm beginning to think...(you know, differently about the world). I'm rather suspicious that he more or less had these same views before he even set out on his journey, and simply used the journey to reinforce them. But-no matter.Read more ›
Call me jaded, but at times the whole impression I was taking away from the experience was to ask myself "how do you get to the place where you can afford such an extravagant trip and so much time off to do it?" I was coming to terms with this just being some kind of boondoggle, characterized by rampant consumerism, by the end of the film.
And in the end that's what compromised the beautiful scenic shots of Easter Island and Patagonia for me. I was entertained and enjoyed watching, but at the same time, there were those nagging and annoying second thoughts about how really altruistic this kind of tourism is.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There was some cussing in this movie, but it is a great documentaryPublished 2 months ago by Friar Rodney Burnap
So inspiring!! Great soundtrack, great blend of adventure, a cry for change, and really focused on the people. I can watch this over and over.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
It may honestly be my favorite movie ever. I have seriously watched it about 6 times.Published 4 months ago by L. J. L.