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Herzog takes us to the South Pole

Last night was the premiere of Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World; his latest project.  It seems there is no territory that Herzog (shown right) will leave unexplored.

In this film, Herzog does all the narration as well as some camera and sound work.  He starts out by taking us on board the plane that brings him to Antarctica, then introduces us to many of the people who live and work on this continent.  There is an art to Herzog's work; he is able to have intimate moments with pretty much everyone he encounters at the end of the world.  We come to meet a cell biologist, glacial divers, a former linguistics student, a penguin expert among many others.  As Herzog puts in the film, "everyone has a special story to tell."

There is a scene in the film where some of the scientists go outside and listen to the glacial sounds.  Although it was staged for the film, it is as if we're there with them.  Herzog mentioned afterwards that he wanted to "intesify the truth" of what it is like to be there on the frozen water and hear the sounds of seal calls, the ice cracking, etc.  The sound, the scenery all make the moment very serene.

Herzog's narration also makes this film more poignant.  We hear his thoughts on the people he meets; we come to know his sense of humour as well as his philosphical thoughts and we share in his overall experience.  He describes how divers do not speak while getting ready for their next dive; it's "like priests getting ready for mass." 

The musical score in this film is also illuminating.  We do not always hear his voice in the film. Herzog uses choral music to set the tone and mood in many parts of the film.  It is difficult to find words to explain how one feels when watching some of these; they evoke emotion.

On the technical side of things, the film took about seven weeks to shoot.  One week was for survival training and the other six were all dedicated to shooting.  Herzog mentioned that due to the temperatures and as a matter of weight and space, he used high-definition video cameras. 

In the larger scheme of things, the film is a meditative look at an area of the world that has been explored since the early 1900's and the people who are drawn to it. 

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