By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD The second screening in The Bing Arts Center's World Film Series will take viewers literally to the end of the world: Antarctica.
Acclaimed German director Werner Herzog's documentary "Encounters at the End of the World," will be presented at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the Bing Arts Center, 716 Sumner Ave.
The World Film Series is made possible by a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council.
Herzog has built his career on films that reflect a strong artistic and personal vision and became well known for films such as his remake of "Nosferatu The Vampyre" "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo," among others.
He has added documentaries to his list of credits and this one received an Academy Award nomination for best feature length documentary, his only nomination to date.
Herzog is the narrator of the film and it is shot in the first person. He was inspired to do so by the underwater footage he has seen from the continent shot by a friend who is a researcher there.
The film begins with his flight from New Zealand with a group of scientists in a cargo plane.
His singular and contrary nature manifests itself quickly. He's not on Antarctica to film a travelogue.
He vows early in the movie that it will not be about penguins, but the birds and one researcher who studies them do make up one memorable sequence.
Instead, he itches to get away from the major research base and out into the field. The question that drives him and the film is who would come to such a place and what do they hope to get out of their experience?
The people Herzog finds are genuinely surprising. They include a glacier expert who lovingly speaks of the polar ice as a living thing, a Native American plumber who comes to Antarctica during its short summer to make extra money and a philosopher who drives heavy construction equipment.
Herzog presents Antarctica as a place so foreign that it's bound to attract people who march to their own drummer. While he is clearly interested in their stories, he is willing to note that some of their tales of explanation of how they came to Antarctica are a bit too long.
Yet it's clear that these people fascinate him as well as the place itself.
A film with beautiful photography, a challenging vision and humor, "Encounters at the End of the World" enables viewers to see something very few humans will ever see in person.