Sunday, 6 February 2011

Encounters At The End Of The World

This is possibly one of my most favorite films ever (After Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings of course), it was original, interesting and insightful, with fantastic footage and some quirky characters. It is however a documentary, made by German Filmmaker Werner Herzog, it documents the life of people living in Antarctica, based in McMurdo, the sort of make shift Capitol of Antarctica.

The film follows the stories of a few different groups of scientists who are working on Antarctica, and a few of the other characters such as the Bus driver, the random collection of travelers and survival trainers. The scientists are some of the most respected in the field of Glaciology, such as Douglas MacAyeal, whose theories on ice sheet disintegration we will study when we get to Heinrich Events (see the wikipedia page for a sneak peak of our last module here).

The interviews are a fantastic mix of the truly bizarre, including the lady who can fold herself up into a suitcase, and the out rightly terrifying perspective on radical climate change and the break up of the ice sheets, and giant icebergs, and my personal favourite bit, the volcanologists studying Mt Erebus which is monitored using the CCTV cameras currently employed in high security prisons!

The film clearly has an underlying message about the fate of the world, otherwise it wouldn't be on my list of movies to review, but it is also a positive movie, the scenery is just stunning, the wildlife is incredible, and for me the noises of the glacier and diving under the ice sheet were pretty jaw dropping (yes students, I know I am a nerd). The only thing i really didn't like, was how developed McMurdo was, my vision of Antarctica had always been of a pristine, unspoiled wilderness, but I was very wrong, it is in fact a small town, filled with people for most of the year, although their work is important, it slightly spoilt my mental image of the wilderness, and it left me feeling slightly sad that even Antarctica, vast and hostile though it may be, has been encroached so much by people already.

So, why is this a good geography movie? Firstly, it is just awesome, Herzog has made a very unique and fascinating movie, secondly, I have always wanted to go to Antarctica, and this is a very different view of the continent than presented in other movies about it. Lastly, it does in fact link to our syllabus quite a lot. The studies taking place at Erebus are useful tools for learning how to predict other eruptions, the Ice Caps are one of the most important things for us to understand in terms of future and past climate change, and are our most complete and accurate record for paleoclimatology over the last 600 000 years. You wont learn much about these things just from the movie, but as a good lead in to our final module in the Upper Sixth, you cant beat it. So, the Library have ordered it, and it will be there soon, let me know what you think!

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