Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hot Docs Review: The Expedition to the End of the World

Scientist and artists may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to adventure on the high seas, but The Expedition to the End of the World will surely change that. A real life adventure film, Daniel Dencik’s documentary shines a light on the unlikeliest cast of heroes. Set in the frozen fjords of Northeast Greenland, the film tracks a maritime expedition to one of the last parts of the world untouched by man. Thanks to global warming, the beautiful three-mast schooner has been provided a short window to navigate in and out of the icy waters of the fjords' inlet or else the crew will be trapped.

Despite the orchestral score that opens up the film, The Expedition to the End of the World is far from your typical documentary about man’s place in nature. The pounding rock and roll soundtrack that cuts in after the opening credits sets the tone perfectly for the eccentric cast of characters that make up the ship’s crew. The crew consists of a captain, a geochemist, an archeologist, a zoologist, a geographer, a geologist, a marine biologist (the lone female of the group) and two artists. Over the course of their expedition they uncover fossils, watch the melting ice caps, create art, and even discover new species.

Their greatest discovery is the realization of how small, and at times insignificant, mankind is in the world. There are many introspective moments in the film that offer much food for thought. The geochemist admits that when he is digging in the earth, he is really looking for something that is within himself. Another member of the crew tries to come up with a formula that will provide answers to the meaning of life. Even the artists contemplate their own place in the world. One of them comments on how most people are paid to know all the answers, while “the only thing the artist is good at is not knowing something.” The artist is always on a quest to learn new things.

The Expedition to the End of the World does make several statements about the impact of global warming but not always in the ways you would expect. One of crew on the expedition argues that for centuries mankind has been dragged through natural calamities and still managed to adapt. He feels that people have gotten too comfortable with their current privileges in life and remarking that “instead of worrying about our cars, maybe we really need a raft.” It is this blend of frank discussion and humour that makes The Expedition to the End of the World such a treat to watch. Although the film tackles several heavy existential ideas, Dencik manages to keep the humour consistent throughout the film. Whether it is the marine biologist explaining a serious subject while wearing a “Fuck Everything and Become a Pirate” t-shirt, or the artist’s rifle accidentally firing when he trips, there is no shortage of comedic moments.

As to be expected of a film with this subject matter, the visuals are absolutely breathtaking. The cinematography in the film is fantastic; the landscape and images of the crew in rough waters really pop off the screen. There is even some great underwater camera work of the wooden ship breaking through the ice. This in particular plays an important role in creating a bit of tension towards the end of the film. Unconventional and thoroughly entertaining, The Expedition to the End of the World is film that will make you want to hop on the first ship to Greenland.

Screenings:
Friday, April 26 7:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Saturday, April 27 4:30 PM
The ROM Theatre

Sunday, April 28 3:30 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Saturday, May 4 6:30 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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