Last night I watched Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, Encounters at the End of the World. Not only is this one of the most haunting films I have ever seen, but also one of the most saddening and overwhelming. Let me begin by saying that I am not speaking of the normally defined version of haunting, or saddening, but those feelings linked to existing, or struggling with existence. The documentary places Herzog close to the south pole, in Antarctica. With Herzog’s uncanny commentary, at once a harsh click from the core of humanity’s pain, at other times a chalky whisper sponged from a darkly humorous and deceivingly coy pit, makes the scene feel distant at first, but then alarmingly ingrained in the viewers bodies and minds.
I cannot help but feel that scientists, especially those in the movie–volcanologists, biologists, physicists, other ‘ists attached to things like milking seals–are more religious than those renouncing evolution; the problem being, however, that these scientific obsessions and fascinations, these spiritual investigations into how things on earth evolve, only open up an even larger catalogue of uncertainty that has me borderline weeping. Kristin raised a point in accordance with what we are and are not meant to see in life. My feeling is that that which is not meant to be seen will never be seen, yet this implies one too many contradictions–that things not wanting to be seen have the capability of not being seen. Yet before I plunge into such garbled territory, I want to comment on a few scenes from the film. There is a monstrously depressing moment where a penguin wanders off into the mountains, to what Herzog calls a “certain death.” Not only does this scene model so much of the human’s characteristics, via despondency and existential nausea, but it also sheds light on the interconnectivity of the world and that perhaps we should leave the world at its interconnectivity, as opposed to prodding the specifics of neutrinos, algae, the absence of lactose in seal milk, and the space an iceberg will travel before we die. I find myself torn between wanting to no more about these things and not wanting to know another thing at all. I think there are two ways of living we can point toward here. One is that we can be in cities and work in and around things that are seeming to be, or spread into the desolate and silent territories where everything is being. One can argue both sides, yet I am currently entranced by the difference between seeming and being and find that it will most likely be my one philosophical quarrel in life.
This film is definitely worth seeing, yet it is sure to bring one to a feeling of both incompetence and complete disembodiment. The giant icebergs that are moving slowly but perhaps melting, the seals that lose half their weight in milking the pups, the languages that die every minute, the polar divers who swim with eye-damagingly beautiful and often undefinded creatures, the men and women who sacrifice themselves to the freedom of traveling and discovering, the whole lot of immersion and extracted idiosyncratics, is passionate and perplexing.
It certainly didn’t help that right after watching Herzog I watched the Bertolucci scene from Love & Anger, arguably one of the best short films ever, in which a sick and religious man is surrounded by devotees whose bodies have been inhabited with the sickness of unservice to some greater being. I cannot even explain this scene. I can only say that it too will haunt me. Please watch it and talk to me.
Just read my entire thesis all the way through; a few changes to make.
Lots of poems on the Internet.