5 hours ago
Sunday, June 7
March of the people
Watching Werner Herzog's South Pole documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, is an exceptionally humbling experience.
Herzog sets out his stall early in the film, telling us that he was not interested in making a movie about 'fluffy' penguins and instead he takes his tiny crew to McMurdo Station, the American headquarters, and a town-of-sorts in the Antarctic.
In and around this area, he encounters a group of people working in a variety of disciplines - plumber, driver, biologist, volcanologist - and tries to discover how and why they have ended up here, at the 'bottom of the world'.
Herzog willfully seizes on the eccentricities of many of these people and manages to create a film that is beautiful, both in its visual representation of an unusual part of the planet and in its portrayal of the fragility of humanity and how, ultimately, we are all just a blip on this planet with extinction an inevitability, just like the dinosaurs before us.
Nature will take care of us sooner or later.
We are no more special than the single cell organisms that are scraped from the ocean floor by one 50s science fiction film enthusiast and scientist who celebrates the discovery of three new species in a single dive by jamming with a co-worker on top of their shed in the middle of the snow, their noisy blues echoing across the white plains.
Personally, I find this prognosis refreshing and Herzog certainly doesn't want it to be taken as bad news. As always, he sees the beauty in human existence, in their stories and thoughts and ideas and lives and he sees the eventual demise of our species as just another step in the world's history..and future.
Why do we deserve anything special because we are a little more intellectually advanced than most animals?
Isn't it wonderful to imagine that everything we have ever created, both hideous and sublime, will someday be gone, probably through our own doing, and the world could be once more left to the most basic creatures, scurrying and foraging on the ocean bed, only interested in the next meal.
The earth would have a clean slate again and it is just a shame that Herzog will not be there to make a documentary about that.
I can imagine his monotonous voice, just audible over helicopter-shot footage of a desolate, silent planet:
"Theees eees de plenet nowww. Chust ez eet begenn. Wiss nossing ett all exsseptt ameebazzz and plennnt liiiiife....'