Werner Herzog is routinely named among the most important auteurs alive today, known for his unforgettable cinematic projects such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Stroszek among many others. Even in recent years, Herzog has maintained his cinematic output by releasing interesting documentaries every other year.
Throughout his career, Herzog’s work has garnered appreciation from fans as well as critics. Among them, one of the most vocal advocates of Herzog’s art was none other than Roger Ebert. The late critic famously wrote that the German auteur never made a film that was subpar and went on to claim that “even his failures are spectacular”.
On multiple occasions, Herzog has also expressed his admiration for Ebert’s writings and his passion for the cinematic medium. According to Herzog, it was Ebert who was one of the last influential figures in popular cinematic discourse. Instead of discussions about art and cinema, Herzog claimed that all of it is rapidly devolving into celebrity news.
In an interview, Herzog elaborated on the importance of Ebert’s work: “I always loved Roger for being the good soldier, not only the good soldier of cinema, but he was a wounded soldier who for years in his affliction held out and ploughed on and soldiered on and held the outpost that was given up by almost everyone.”
That is why he decided to dedicate a particular documentary to Ebert as a tribute. He claimed that the dedication was meant “to send a signal in his direction [of] admiration, friendship, respect, encouragement because he was the wounded soldier still holding out”. That documentary was called Encounters at the End of the World.
The 2007 film saw Herzog travel to Antarctica in order to understand the intentions of the people who live there and study various aspects of the unique environmental conditions. Since then, Encounters at the End of the World is cited as one of Herzog’s finest documentary works because it beautifully captures a surreal portion of our planet.
“In a way, it started out with landscape, but I say that with necessary caution because it was all underwater footage,” Herzog explained. “[It’s] a completely strange science fiction world, totally fascinating, and we have never seen anything like that on any screen, so that was what intrigued me to go there and I wanted to do diving and filming under the water.”
Watch the full documentary below.