ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD
directed by Werner Herzog
starring Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Mark Boone Junior
written and directed by Courtney Hunt
by Walter Chaw It's a source of endless delight for me that Werner Herzog--the man who refers to nature as "obscene"--has become known of late for delivering mordant, mildly condescending nature documentaries. His Grizzly Man is a modern classic of Bavarian madness--now find Herzog in Antarctica, declaring at regular intervals in Encounters at the End of the World that "something doesn't seem right" with a perfectly-preserved hut used by Shackleton a hundred years ago, or with a demented penguin making its way to certain doom on an inexplicable march to the inland. With an opening that has Herzog immodestly laying out his mission statement as wishing to discover, in a roundabout way, why it is that men are obsessed with riding their metaphorical steeds into the wild unknowns, he illustrates the conundrum with a sideswipe at mankind, equating us with ants that hold other insect species as "slaves" and wondering why chimps, despite their intellectual sophistication, decline to domesticate goats to ride them on their own existential pursuits.