Hot Docs 2013: Expedition to the End of the World Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Expedition to the End of the World

Directed by Daniel Dencik


The titular Expedition to the End of the World happens every summer, taking its expert Danish passengers to Greenland. The journey, as well as the filmmakers going with them this time around, have no set agenda. Surprisingly, it’s the chosen method for most filmmakers, even some who make fiction. Having this mindset, whether one is embarking on a scientific journey or on documentary, helps to make the final product less preachy, the latter being a woeful attribute in too many nature docs. When a scientist or a filmmaker doesn’t know what to expect, his (excepting two women who appear in front of the camera) discovery seems more authentic and he tends to produce impartial results.

But being around melting icebergs, the film’s few chosen subjects can’t help but have stances on climate change. Man has always emigrated and adapted. A female member repeats ‘survival of the fittest,’ aware of the cold adage that applies to the animal kingdom. An artist irreverently suggests to invade the defenseless Alps in case his homeland gets flooded.

His machismo is a prevalent attitude within the crew, joking around with expensive equipment, etc. I shouldn’t be surprised that these experts aren’t the stereotypical, meticulous, sombre observers, which they are sometimes. Their occasional dips into juvenile sense of humour adds to their character, their way of keeping themselves sane from too much work and not enough civilization. Of course the more serious members contemplate the meaning of life or the consequences of civilized pollution as they study new life forms or capture new landscapes.

Let me return to the reactions towards the melting ice caps, including two middle of the road ones. Some of them don’t care about climate change’s consequences and are more about nature’s processes. They leave it up to others to make changes, if change is the right thing to do. Others see Greenland as one big crime scene but don’t want to be overdramatic about why the skeletons or archaeological remnants lie as they were.

We hear the opposite reaction from the ship’s captain and main crew, as well as some of the scientists. They project emotions towards the landscapes, its jagged nakedness showing a world that is changing faster than its species. In short, some of the experts admit that climate change is coming to kill us. Even the funny artist is outraged when they see an oil ship that’s been entrenched within Greenland’s bodies of water, assuming that oil companies are speeding up the environment’s of the environment as we know it.

The cinematography and the sound handsomely reflects this ambivalence. Mostly, I can say that the filmmakers wouldn’t seem like they didn’t care so much about climate change if they didn’t shoot the landscapes so majestically. These are wonderful images that justify their projection onto the silver screen. The slow and static images liven up when the experts move around the environment, or when the camera captures life surviving the harsh environment. This winning camerawork hints to the director’s literary flair, choosing image over exposition.

These beautiful scenes have an opposing effect and message when sound comes along, another important element in a theatrical presentation. If we’re not hearing the ship’s deep bumps against the ice, we hear metal music being played, as if reminding us that violent change constantly happens and will keep happening after we perish.


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Published by paolocase

I'm a little spongette of pop culture, mostly spending time and money in the movie theatre and TCM-like channels.

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