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Parents' Guide to

Encounters at the End of the World

By James Rocchi, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 7+

South Pole documentary is gorgeous, if a bit dry.

Movie G 2008 99 minutes
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Herzog's previous explorations of the natural world and human behavior have involved big questions and big themes; Encounters at the End of the World is a little more calm and introspective. But it's still a fascinating look at the nature of the scientific exploration going on in one of the world's most desolate places. Herzog serves as his own narrator, and his dry, knowing tone is one of the film's pleasures: Describing McMurdo station, the outpost that serves as a central base for all Antarctic research, he notes how the facility includes many modern amenities, such as "a yoga class, an aerobics studio, and other abominations."

Herzog's explorations and interviews get even more fascinating once he's away from the main station. The film includes gorgeous, impressive underwater sequences shot during dives under the polar ice cap, a balloon launch designed to raise high-end physics observation equipment into the upper stratosphere, penguin-colony footage, and a tour of the rim of an active volcano. Herzog also examines what life is like for the men and women stationed at the South Pole, and their stories and ideas are compelling. Herzog may not be a traditional tour guide, but his off-center sensibility is one of the many pleasures of Encounters at the End of the World; the film's most successful moments come as the combination of a unique location and a unique point of view, both of which Encounters at the End of the World most definitely has to share with the audience.

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