Directed by Werner Herzog
With Herzog's Grizzly Man, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and the incomparable My Best Fiend already entrenched on my list of all-time documentary favorites, I needed very little persuasion to check out his new doc on the big screen last Sunday night. While seemingly more straightforward than any of those efforts, Encounters still rates high in the entertainment department, blending the director's usual questioning of man's relationship to nature with some simply spectacular footage taken aboveground and underwater in Antarctica. Herzog gets off a couple of trademark blasts at "tree-huggers," "whale-huggers" and the makers of cute penguin movies during the course of the film, but most of the time this most idiosyncratic of humanists wisely chooses to let the images and the interviewees speak for themselves. Not that this is all fun and games. Since many among the scientists and support staff on camera confide that they're resigned to man's impending doom on the planet or suggest that they wound up on the icy continent because they didn't want any part of civilization as we know it in the first place, the result is a blend of the ethereal and the apocalyptic that's much more unsettling than its humble G rating would lead you to believe.
Viewed at the Kendall Square Cinema (Cambridge, MA) on 7/6/08.