I’ve been meaning to link to this for a few days: Chris Knight at the National Post had a report from the Toronto film festival on Encounters at the End of the World, the new documentary from Werner Herzog, that had me laughing on the bus:
Encounters is essentially Herzog’s home movie of his trip to Antarctica last summer. Laced with dry Germanic humour, it follows the filmmaker as he ambles across the bottom of the world interviewing some of the thousand or so inhabitants of McMurdo Station, the U.S.-run hub of science and exploration activities on the continent. From the people he meets, it’s clear Antarctica holds more than its share of oddballs, misfits and misanthropes, as if you shook the world and all the eccentrics settled at the bottom like sediment. Herzog, who finds the presence of aerobics and yoga classes in McMurdo Station “an abomination” and who remarks that “human life is part of an endless chain of catastrophe,” fits right in.
Herzog was invited to visit Antarctica by the National Science Foundation, he says, “even though I made it clear I would not come back with another film about penguins.” But to ignore the tuxedo-clad fowl completely would be like coming to the festival and turning your back on George Clooney in an elevator. So he interviews penguin expert Dr. David Ainley, but in his inimitable Herzogian style asks: “Is there such a thing as insanity among penguins?” Ainley, taken aback, says the birds do sometimes get disoriented, and Herzog immediately cuts to a group of penguins huddled together in the snow. Half of them waddle off toward the sea to feed; half make for their nesting grounds; but one sad bird stands alone for a long moment before turning his back on the camera and trudging off toward a mountain range some 70 kilometres away. It’s a bitter bit of comedy; even in the penguin world, it seems, Herzog can find a link in the endless chain of catastrophe.
Given Herzog’s other films, I can just imagine this scene. Chuckle.