Werner Herzog returns to the non-fiction world once again with ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, his latest exploration into the dangerous beauty that exists in nature. This time, Herzog travels to Antarctica in order to deliver a funny, visually arresting, dreamlike glimpse into Earth's most mysterious continent. Herzog begins by interviewing the many bizarre and unique individuals who have chosen to live and work in the secluded, frozen McMurdo Station.
hese characters aren't far removed from Herzog's quirkiest narrative features; as he interrogates them, it is clear just how amused he is by their off-kilter personalities. After a while, he leaves the humans behind in order to focus on the creatures that populate the continent--most notably, seals and penguins. In one unforgettable sequence, a lone penguin breaks off from the pack and ventures off into the distance, never to be heard from again. Herzog's subsequent questioning of an expert, in which he contemplates a penguin's ability to become deranged, is the director at his most overtly humorous--but there's a sincerity to his questioning that keeps it from sarcasm.
The film builds to a gorgeous, haunting conclusion, in which producer/composer/cohort Henry Kaiser takes a camera along with him deep into the sea, under all of that ice, at which point we are exposed to magical visions that feel downright otherworldly. Deftly balancing humour and seriousness, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD is another gem in Herzog's already legendary canon.