What a brilliant film-poem! I like how the marketing puts it: “There is a hidden society at the end of the world. One thousand men and women live together under unbelievably close quarters in Antarctica, risking their lives and sanity in search of cutting-edge science.”
Superficially this is a film about strange other-worldly creatures and ice formations beneath the the South Pole, and about the eccentric people who live in harsh and unappetizing conditions to study them. But musically scored with a soundtrack of eerie religious chanting, this film feels more like a prayer. It has the same mix of science discovery and spiritual awe you might expect if you were accompanying astronauts on a visit to another planet of life. Which they are. You can feel souls being expanded, and that soul expansion is what is captured here, at the bottom of the world, where unattached philosophers seem to collect as they float over unknown species on this planet. Tempering this exaltation are scenes of the brutal industrialization of a pristine place, annotated by a haunting, depressive narration. The film’s title indicates not just the bottom of the world, but also its end in time. It delivers soaring, stunning visions of life made possible by, or in spite of, dirty, mechanical probes into its heart. Somehow this duality of uplift and pessimism works for me. Others may find it too esoteric. I take it as a visual hymn to science.
In fact if there was such a thing as a religion of science, this film would be a good recruitment trailer for it.
Encounters at the End of the World
2007, 101 min.
$4, Amazon Instant Video rental
Read more about the film at Wikipedia
Rent from Netflix
Available from Amazon