Review: Encounters At The End Of The World (2007)

One lone penguin, squaring off against the rest of the world!

Written By: Werner Herzog
Directed By: Werner Herzog

Always in search of the absurd, Werner Herzog opens his documentary by stating he is not going to Antarctica to make another movie about penguins. He has no interest in what he considers normal, and producing a film about Antarctic penguins would put his film alongside all the rest of the Antarctic penguins movies, and make Encounters At The End Of The World very normal. To solve this problem Herr Herzog inserts himself as an omnipresent narrator and tailors the film to include a series of encounters with odd men and women.

There’s a loose structure to Encounters At The End Of The World, a theme about the weakness and ultimate demise of humanity emerges. However, Encounters At The End Of The World never fully embraces its theme or its structure. It is a series of vignettes as opposed to a whole film. Those vignettes consist of various interviews with interesting people. Some of the subjects are more interesting than others, but the most interesting voice of all belongs to Herr Herzog. That his voice is so iconic and emits so much disdain and restrained emotion is a boon to the film. At the same time the subjects of the film that are very interesting only serve to showcase the lowered level of interest in what the remaining subjects have to offer.

Encounters At The End Of The World is a beautiful film. Not all of the footage is from Herr Herzog. But, that doesn’t really matter. He takes his own footage and combines it with other nature film to create a visual palette that is equal parts ugly and beautiful. It comes as no surprise that when Herr Herzog is observing the visuals of nature the film is at its most beautiful. Equally unsurprising is that the visuals supplied to the man made camps and structures are well done but filmed in a way that emits a great ugliness. Herr Herzog does not hide his own feelings, he unleashes a borderline hatred towards humanity, especially towards the self-importance of humanity. Yet, it is in those moments when the film is the strongest, because of the dominating nature of Herr Herzog’s personality.

A series of interesting interviews, some more interesting than others, and beautiful visuals exist alongside the buoyant personality of Werner Herzog. Encounters At The End Of The World is lesser Herr Herzog, but it’s still a good film. I don’t ever envision a day where I dislike a film that features a director going out of his way to find and highlight the one deranged penguin who acts differently than the rest of the group. As Herr Herzog talked about the insanity of the penguin I could only chuckle at how in essence he was talking about himself. It may not be a great film, but Encounters At The End Of The World is another venture into the absurd and abnormal from a man who revels in searching out and exploring the absurd and abnormal.




4 responses to “Review: Encounters At The End Of The World (2007)

  1. It’s an okay doc. I think Herzog puts himself too much into these films, making his eccentricity override some of the compelling nature of his subject. I know that’s the appeal for some, but I find it a bit too cutesy and distracting.

    Still, there are a lot of great images and a few moment that still stick out in my mind.

  2. I don’t mind the way Herzog inserts himself, he does so in a more restrained manner than some other documentary filmmakers. What makes it for me is that Herzog always presents its as his view of the world versus the views of the subjects in his films, that really works for me, moreso in some of his other docs obviously.

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