This was probably the easiest day of this week’s little experiment when it came to picking a film. That’s the thing with documentaries: most of them at least loosely fit the “exactly what it says on the tin” requirement. Some less so, of course.
More penguins than Werner wanted.
Legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog travels to Antarctica to explore not just the continent itself, but the people who find themselves drawn there. And yes, there are some penguins wandering around too.
The first thing to mention about this film is the sheer beauty of it. Films like this are what hi-def was designed for. This belongs on the biggest screen with the biggest sound system possible. Unfortunately I had to make do with my crappy little 24 incher but while that may have diminished the quality of the images somewhat, it didn’t have much effect on their impact. I have just spent the last 100 minutes in a daze.
There isn’t really any narrative point that Herzog is making with this film. The title is entirely literal. He encounters these people and he records what they have to say about who they are, how they got there, and why they do what they do. While they have all kinds of jobs, from plumbers and bus drivers to cell biologists and volcanologists, one thing they have in common is that they probably didn’t really fit in back in the real world. These are the people who see things from a slightly different angle than everyone else. It’s a very endearing kind of crazy, and one that’s seen all too rarely these days.
As well as the interviews, there are several sequences where the camera explores this world both above and below the ice. These are the moments that will take your breath away. The images on the screen, combined with the choral music and Herzog’s hypnotic narration, are simply beautiful. At times it feels like you are looking at a whole other planet. I want to call this a mood piece, but I don’t want to sound wanky about it. It is a fantastic film though. I’d put it right up amongst Herzog’s best, both fiction and documentary.