Sunday, November 09, 2008

Encounters at the end of the world

Once again Cine Europa comes to Santiago this month, and I hope to make it to more than one film, which was my paltry effort last year.

There are 10-20 films showing every day, from around the world and from many genres and I went yesterday to see the latest film by Werner Herzog, "Encounters at the end of the world" - Herzog's continuing quest to discover something about what makes us human by searching for the extremes that we put ourselves through.

I find watching his films, both documentary and fictional, a rather strange experience.  Herzog's films, more than any other director I know, are more about Herzog than about his subject. One doesn't go to see Encounters at the End of the World to discover a true picture of life at the Antarctic science base, but to hear Herzog's personal thoughts on the peculiarities he sees in such life. The editing and manipulation of the characters is clear and occasionally over the top, making the eccentricities the overriding feature of every character. As long as you go in with your critical senses alert you will be able to experience the world through the eyes of a very accomplished director and this is no bad thing in itself.

If you want a film which shows the beauty of the Antarctic, then there are dozens of more appropriate documentaries out there, but this doesn't detract from the occasional spine-tingling shot, or thought provoking piece of dialogue that is offered. Despite the beauty however, the films overall message is one of warning and pessimism, with little hope for salvation, The end of the world simultaneously taking on multiple meanings.

Through the pessimism however, appears a message, which though my materialist eyes gives a positive spin to the overall theme. Quoting Alan Watts, the forklift truck driver states that:

We are the witness through which the universe becomes conscious of its own glory.

and although Watts' ideas are given a religious overtone, exactly the same can be said in purely physical terms: our minds, being part of the universe, give the universe and not us alone a self-consiousness with which to study itself. This is something that I feel strongly, and this fact alone is enough for me to want to understand the universe more and more, in its huge complexity stemming from such simple principles - principles which we may or may not be alone in trying to understand.

just a thought...


toomanytribbles said...

"we are a way for the universe to know itself." - carl sagan

Anonymous said...