Werner Herzog’s films have made such a big impression that I am tempted to start a tribute blog. For someone to consistently create fresh images and present them as interesting stories would take a lot of effort. Herzog did that with Aguirre in 1972 and he still does it with Encounters at the End of the World in 2008.
Unlike many film-watchers I hardly have any questions to ask after viewing a film. I either like it or don’t. There are very few times that I intend to know something more. Long gone are the days when I struggled to get a grip on the art and craft of movie-making. It took me some time to realise that I couldn’t understand either.
In Encounters…, which makes Herzog the most accomplished director in the history of cinema geographically (he has filmed at least one film in each of the seven continents), he travels to Antarctica to meet men and women from various walks of life who try to make sense of the steadily melting ice-land.
He disclaims at the outset any desire to film penguins. But he does end up asking strange questions about them and what happens after that can only happen in a fairy-land or in a Herzog film.
“Can they go crazy?”
Cuts to one penguin who leaves his fellows and waddles away towards oblivion. A few go to the right of the screen, while another returns back, but this one goes straight into the vast landscape. If it had been a man and not a penguin, one could conclude that this was scripted by Herzog. It however is an amazing scene, in a film that wouldn’t get affected if penguins weren’t talked about.
Herzog reckons it is going towards sure death, which could occur at least because of hunger. He doesn’t bother chasing it and we are left with only our imagination and his words to deduce the penguin’s fate. I would like to know what happened to that penguin.