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Encounters at the End of the World

4.1 out of 5 stars 98 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.

Amazon.com

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

None.

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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001DWNUD8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,625 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Encounters at the End of the World" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.

ABOVE THE ICE
BELOW THE ICE
SEALS & MEN
DIVE LOCKER INTERVIEW
SOUTH POLE EXORCISM
JONATHAN DEMME INTERVIEWS WERNER HERZOG

+ 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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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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A good introduction to the researchers and support workers who make the US Antarctic Program work. The emphasis of the docu-movie is on McMurdo station. There is a short trip to South Pole station but not as much detail is provided compared to McMurdo and its environs. No material is provided for the other US station on the peninsula - Palmer station.
I was at McMurdo when Herzog filmed/recorded this movie. While I am not featured I do know most of the those featured to some extent or more. I found his treatment honest. I would have been nice to have discuss some of the controversies existing in Antarctica and the various national programs but that would have required a docu-series.
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I was already a Herzog fan after having seen "Grizzly Man" and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams", so I eagerly heeded a friend's recommendation to watch "Encounters". Although I found that Encounters was, in a sense, different from the other two Herzog films I'd seen previously, it nonetheless proved to be an experience that had me singularly focused upon the screen for the entire duration of the movie.

I want to be clear that this is a film which pulls together something of a mish-mash of Herzog's experiences and thoughts about the South Pole: stories of people, excursions into scientific research and intriguing philosophical insights. Some of those who disliked the film complained that it "lacked a unified theme", but I think they've missed the point. "Encounters", by design, is an odyssey without a destination. It paints a riveting and diverse picture of the South Pole as an otherworldly place of disjointed oddities... truly a collection vignettes which are unified only by the fact that they grow out of this desolate and beautiful continent.

Another complaint I've seen is that the film fails to serve as a call to action for tackling the issue of global warming. In an era when polar ice is melting faster than at any other time in human history, I suppose that I can understand why some folks might be disappointed that Herzog didn't leverage his fame and skill to make a film which would highlight and condemn global warming. As someone who is deeply concerned about the condition of our environment, I am sympathetic to their opinion. Still though, I feel like they're overlooking the simple fact that Herzog's brand of art is simply not preoccupied with environmentalism. Herzog's "Encounters" is not a plea to save the future... in fact, it's the exact opposite in a certain sense.
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A fascinating film, but if you don't go into it with a very loose, artistic mindset you will probably be frustrated by the almost complete lack of direction. The film is a collection of little scenes that, on their own, have value, but all together come to a hodgepodge with no point. In an attempt to find a point, I found myself paying more attention to Herzog's narration than I did to what he was filming, which ended up being a very bad idea because his narration at times seems just as meandering and self contradicting. In one scene he bemoans the "sick" human obsession with placing animals above humans in importance ("tree huggers and whale huggers, but no one cares about an entire language dying out.") This gives one the impression of a humanist, of someone going against the modern anti-human grain, and yet the rest of the film is the usual environmentalist whining about the human "stain" on the landscape (as if every a human settlement has to be aesthetically "pretty" or built into the natural surroundings in a manner that, at the end, is entirely unnatural).

At one point, he refers to the existence of a bowling alley and yoga classes at the settlement as an "abomination" that he "wanted to get away from." Why? Are humans at the bottom of the world expected to stop being human? Isn't he there for the expressed purpose of recording HUMANS in Antarctica? As I said, meandering and contradicting. The sequences near the end about climate change and a possible future in which "alien archaeologist" study the last desperate remnants of a dead species are so over-emotive and irrational they sound like readings of Revelations in an evangelical church; fire and brimstone, pain and misery, sin and punishment.
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