Expedition to the End of the World closes the UK Green Film Festival on Sunday 8th June with a gala screening at Hackney Picturehouse. Click here for tickets.
Once in a while, I will watch a work of film so satisfying that afterwards I lean backwards with my hands linked behind my golden head and emit a screech of elation more beautiful than Enya, and yet more eerie than the singing plants of Vermillion Sands; this was one of those occasions.
With an overtly Scandinavian approach to the inevitable demise of the human race, Expedition to the End of the World takes place on an Arctic Schooner, packed with pondering scientific and creative humanoids and voyaging to an almost-unexplored fjord which, due to rising temperatures and melting ice, has recently become accessible for a few weeks a year.
The film is exceptionally beautiful to look at, the opening sequence reminiscent of the boat carrying Nosferatu and his rats drifting through the mist in F. W. Murnau’s silent classic. With the accompanying howling, creaking sounds, you become immersed as if attached to the bow of the ship, plunging in and out of the water having wild seraphim hallucinations, interrupted by the erratic bursts of crunching guitars, and resonant choral music.
The poignant strength of this documentary sits within its ability to concentrate on the ordinary conversational exchanges between the crew of the ship. The landscape remains an ominous presence throughout, astounding as ever, but as one of the artists points out, “nature would not be beautiful if man were not there to call it so.” This is a crucial line for the tone and sentiment of the film; it is not a call to action on the inevitability of global warming, but rather a meditation on our place within this chain of events, an expedition of thought toward the future and an insight into our past.
This film moves past the usual hysteria surrounding the issues at hand, digging into far more stimulating territory where there can be discussion: the urgency is still there but as a given rather than a motivation. The George Carlin’esque approach to the environmental factors gave great clarity to the intellectual processes of those involved; at last we have an environmental documentary without lofty, hubristic tendencies.
Words> Denzil Dean