Encounters at the End of the World (Herzog, 2008)

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After watching the surprisingly underwhelming Man on Wire, Werner Herzog’s strange and sometimes fascinating Encounters at the End of the World feels downright refreshing. If you’re familiar with Herzog’s documentaries, you know the brazen filmmaker often travels to harsh lands where his subjects walk a thin line between sanity and madness. This time out, Herzog travels to a Antarctica where he maneuvers the brutal terrain, meets some benign (by his standards) but revealing people, and explores the specific style of life in this extreme locale. The film works best when Herzog lets his many subjects (they range from scientists to travelers) speak of the special draw Antarctica has for those souls who’ve fallen off the map, seeking adventure and/or scientific discovery. Encounters at the End of the World lacks the epic danger and solitude of his best non-fiction films, masterpieces like Lessons of Darkness and The White Diamond, but even Werner at his tamest seems daring this day and age.

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