Encounters At The End Of The World

DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Encounters At The End Of The World
Encounters At The End Of The World

Revolver are to be congratulated for putting together a superb set of extras on this double-disc DVD. Although some are more engaging than others, the package is nothing short of exhaustive, especially when you consider this is not a mainstream Hollywood film.

The film – itself, well up to bearing repeat viewings - is accompanied by an equally enjoyable commentary track with director Werner Herzog, producer/cameraman Henry Kaiser and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. They’re an amiable trio and the fact that they’re clearly good friends helps the conversation to flow. As the many characters encountered begin to be introduced, Zeitlinger says: “You love almost everyone there.”

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“All my filmmaking had to do with falling in love with the world,” responds Herzog. It is this sort of interesting candor that runs through the whole of the track, which also sees Herzog push Kaiser to talk about his “difficult childhood”.

In addition to extra observations about the people they spoke to, there is also plenty of technical information, including Herzog admitting that the point where the scientists are seen ‘listening’ to the sounds of seals was completely stage-managed. There’s also information about the choice of film used, the problems of shooting in the cold and plenty of hope to be had for would-be filmmakers – “You can do a film with two or three people,” Herzog asserts.

The conversation is free-ranging and all the better for it, showing both the intensity and impetuousness of Herzog, while offering an extra layer of information about the film itself.

The feature disc also contains three additional sets of nature footage – Under The Ice (35 minutes), Over The Ice (10 minutes) and Stacy And SCINI @ The Jetty (5 minutes). All three are set simply to music and feature some beautiful and contemplative camerawork. The first is underwater, the second from the vantage point of a helicopter over the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the third more underwater shots, this time showing some of the equipment used, including the remotely operated SCINI - Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging.

The main extra on the second disc is a 2008 interview Werner Herzog did at the Museum of Moving Image in New York with fellow director Jonathan Demme. While it could be argued that an interview with a journalist would be more focussed, there is something very sweet about this hour-long chat. Early on, Herzog pays Demme such a compliment that the Silence Of The Lambs director goes bright pink and, from there on in, he has the rather sweet attitude of a flattered schoolboy. The conversation is wide-ranging and, perhaps surprisingly, concentrates as much on Herzog’s early work as on Encounters. There is some cross-over with the commentary track, but plenty of additional observations. “I’m a result of defeats,” says Herzog, before he moves on to another disarming comment aimed at Demme.

Other highlights include Herzog declaring: “I was born in Bavaria. I don’t like Germans.”, plus some interesting revelations about his relationship with Fassbender. It’s hard not to be caught up in the enthusiasm and humour of the event.

Also contained on the second disc is yet more excellent wildlife footage, including three minutes of extremely cute seal close-ups – Seals And Men – and additional footage of the ice wall in a Bowerslab internal use video.

Those interested in the goings on under the ice, will find plenty of information in Dive Locker Interview, which sees Herzog chatting to Kaiser and dive supervisor Rob Robbins. Again, Herzog is continually hunting for the ‘poetry’ his interviewees have to offer and, although some of the information here is a little repetitive, this is 18 minutes well spent.

Your opinion of rest of the extras – with the exception of the trailer – will hinge on how much you like the music of Henry Kaiser, since they are all geared to him. Guitars In Antarctica (20 minutes) sees him present his different guitars, followed by solos on them shot while down at the Pole. Slide Guitar And Exorcism, is linked to the genesis of Encounters itself, but is essentially just another excuse for some fret work from Kaiser. And I’m at something of a loss to describe South Pole Video Diary Of The Ghost of Jeffy Jeffwell except to say it’s a mockumentary short which is okay if you like that sort of thing.

All in all, despite one or two weak points, this is an excellent set of extras - also available on Bluray - which genuinely adds interest and information to the main feature.

Reviewed on: 03 Sep 2009
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Encounters At The End Of The World packshot
The infamous director Werner Herzog visits the Antarctic, determined not to make a movie about penguins.
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Product Code: REVD2256

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary, Under The Ice, Over The Ice, Stacy And SCINNI @ The Jetty, Interview with Jonathan Demme, Dive Locker Interview, Seals And Men, Guitars In Antarctica, Ice Wall Bowerslab Internal Video, South Pole Video Diary Of The Ghost of Jeffy Jeffwell, Slide Guitar Exorcism, Trailer

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