In the most hostile, barren, alien environment on the planet...you meet the most interesting people. Welcome to Antarctica - like you've never experienced it. You've seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaci... more »ers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning, iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) to be the first to explore the South Pole's most fascinating inhabitants...humans. In this one-of-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, "professional dreamers" who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty - perhaps the last frontier on earth.« less
"What the current Amazon listing does not explicitly mention is the wealth of DVD EXTRAS that accompany the 100 minute feature in this 2-DVD set.
ABOVE THE ICE BELOW THE ICE SEALS & MEN DIVE LOCKER INTERVIEW SOUTH POLE EXORCISM JONATHAN DEMME INTERVIEWS WERNER HERZOG
+ a hidden "Easter Egg" extra: SEAL MEN, an Antarctic Parody of Herzog's GRIZZLY MAN, with weddell seals replacing grizzly bears
all and all this is over 3 hours of EXTRAS!"
Good, but Not for a Herzog
Alan Lawn | Brooklyn, NY USA | 10/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am a big fan of Herr Zog. But while "Encounters" provided me with an overall positive experience, it is a flawed film. First, the good news. Hearing the inorganically musical underwater vocalizations of Weddell seals through the theater's multichannel speaker system was alone worth the price of admission. One of the scientists studying the pinnipeds aptly describes their varied and otherworldly sounds as Pink Floydian. I am also pleased to have beheld extended footage of the magnificent world beneath the sea ice. It is a teeming environment whose surface we are only beginning to scratch, and I cannot blame Herzog for choosing choral background music that perhaps screams "awe" a bit too loudly; there is no danger of it cheapening the majesty of the frozen stalactites or the splendor of the sunlight dispersing through the ice-ceiling. Lastly, I'll note the humor, usually intentional, that Herzog uncharacteristically displays. His Teutonic deadpan is not his only comedic asset; he has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and ample targets among the many dubious denizens of the Antarctic.
My complaints are essentially twofold. First, the movie is disjointed. It is a hodgepodge of Herzog's encounters with various Antarctic researchers and residents; there is no apparent order or theme. This is a minor criticism, as most of the segments make for fine viewing on their own, but it would have been more satisfying if Herzog had presented a unifying thesis or two about the Light Continent (aside from the oft-repeated observation that it is populated by a fair number of "professional dreamers"). He should have at least arranged the segments in a clearly meaningful sequence. At its best, the film made no more of an impression on me than "that was beautiful," "that was cool," or "I didn't know that." Second, and more significantly, Herzog's narration is at times irritating. As someone who has studied climate change, I share his frustration and pessimism. But there is no call for saddling the film's final moments with apocalyptic platitudes (e.g., "the end of human life is assured") and a cursory reference to global warming. These sentiments are incongruous with the rest of the film, which does not substantially address environmentalism and whose most haunting scene is of a mad penguin that abandons its flock and runs inland towards distant mountains, to certain death, with a singular determination. Herzog's doomsayings, in any event, are better communicated by the satellite images of rapidly melting polar ice that we observe on a climatologist's computer screen. I know that Herzog is capable of more measured reflections on the impersonal and uncontrollable power of nature; for example, from "Grizzly Man": "what haunts me is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior." In "Encounters," Herzog superficially and self-indulgently overstates his case. I'm looking forward to his next film."
Daniel G. Lebryk | 12/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are movies, there are directors, and then there are masterpieces and masterful directors. Encounters is a true masterpiece, especially taken within the body of Herzog's work. This is a documentary first, much like Grizzly Man. Grizzly Man
The film in Antarctica itself is goregous. There is a subtle construction by Herzog that feels at first like a random documentary, but then builds over time to something much more than simply another film about "cute penguins", or planet earth. There is a below the ice and above the ice aspect to this film, physically and about the people. I loved the music, it fits so perfectly with the rythmn. The filming is done extremely well.
Early in the film Herzog promises to not make another film about cute penguins, and he certainly delivers. Although there is a short sequence about a cute penguin, lost walking the wrong direction with such determination to his certain death.
The bonus features in this DVD package are incredible. Aside from the extra footage under the water and flying in a helicopter, there is a second disc. The second disc is almost worth the price of admission, Johnathan Demme (director of Silence of the Lambs) interviews Werner Herzog for an hour and a half. The conversation is incredible. Demme opens the conversation reading a letter from Roger Ebert to Herzog(this film is dedicated to Roger). Suffice it to say, there is nothing I can possibly add to the full conversation. You will have to watch this amazing exchange.
Herzog apparently is highly influenced by music and sound. There is a fairly significant thread through this film dealing with both. Within two days I have watched two films where sound played a very major role or was another character in the film. I can very highly recommend Fraulein. If you love film, I think you will find Fraulein equally engaging."
A haphazard film that never fully develops
Georg Einarsson | Reykjavik, Iceland | 03/07/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Since other reviewers have adequately summarized this film, I'll skip straight to what I thought were the best and worst qualities of "Encounters":
- The filming itself is brilliant, as you'd expect from Herzog. The contrast beetween the spellbinding landscape and the banal living quarters of its inhabitants is striking.
- The interviews provide terrific insight into the passion and curiousity that is necessary to subject oneself to living, even temporarily, in the most inhospitable land on the planet.
- The footage of the Antarctic Ocean floor is truly otherwordly. The creatures beneath the "frozen sky" are beyond even the most imaginative science fiction writers.
- There are approximately three hours of extra footage contained in the extra features on disc one and disc two, including segments of footage taken above and below the frozen surface. There is also a 90 minute interview of Werner Herzog conducted by acclaimed director Jonathan Demme, which is very interesting and, for me, worth the price of admission.
- The film's interviews are often laden with scientific jargon that I suspect will alienate a general audience. I found the content of the interviews fascinating, albeit completely over my head.
- As other reviewers have noted, the interviews with the so-called "commoners" that were not in Antarctica for scientific study were too short. I felt that insufficient time was spent on telling their stories.
- While many of Herzog's observations and contemplations are fascinating, they never seem to connect to a larger theme or thesis. This lack of intellectual focus makes the landscape itself the focus of the film, and ultimately overwhelms Herzog's encounters that gave this film its name. I believe Herzog's intent was for these encounters to leave an impression on his audience, but it failed to do so for me. Perhaps if the contents of the interviews had built off of one another and arrived at a larger lesson or thought, something other than the landscape shots would have stuck with me.
Overall, I found the film to be inexcusably unfocused, leaving little else other than the setting to be admired. Herzog has done better than this. I call this film surreal, rather than poignant, as so many of his films have been. In any case, I have high hopes for his next project.
Glimpse at the People of Antarctica
Allison Kalman | NJ USA | 12/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a terrific, quirky documentary of the kind that Herzog is known for. And like all his films, it tells you as much about his about any of his subjects. (See Grizzly Man for a perfect example of a fill all about Herzog seeing himself in someone else). While the footage of Antarctica itself is beautiful and interesting, what real focus of this film is the types of people who are drawn to this isolated environment, a group of self-described outcasts from the rest of the world. There's something not just about this place that brings them here, but about these people themselves. And it's absolutely fascinating to watch. You can tell in every frame that Herzog sees himself in these people as well.
If you enjoy this film and want to explore Antarctica more, check out Ice People. Just as spellbinding and interesting, but with a little more focus on science. I can't see anyone disappointed in a double feature of these two films for a real complete view of the continent few of us will ever be lucky enough to see in person."