If you are to look at information about "Encounters" (trailers, posters, articles) you will most likely form a false impression of it. It is expected that you will be watching a nature documentary in the climate of Antarctica , of which you're sure there will be some beautiful photography and some things that you've never seen before. In the end however, you will have just seen something that you could have probably stayed at home and seen on the Discovery channel, or gone out to see in a far more fulfilling venue like an Imax theatre. It will probably be forgettable. Don't feel bad. Even though I am familiar with Herzog's work, this is the assumption that I had as well.
I should have known better. Curiosity and passion are his trademarks, and for that reason he always gets more out of his material than you think he will. There is plenty of underwater photography and scenes involving the environment and scarce wildlife to be sure and these scenes are beautiful, but he is not satisfied with merely that content. He also wishes to get into the heads of the locals of the continent who are far more fascinating than you would expect. What kind of a person could make their living at the “end of the world?” Why would they choose to live in such a desolate climate and so far away from accepted civilization? Each person who speaks has a different and interesting reason, but all have one thing in common. They feel distinctly connected to the other people who have also chosen this path in life. Herzog also narrates the film, always from the perspective of an outsider, and his odd quips (“I felt as though…”) about the behavior of the people and wildlife add resonance to what is being witnessed. His inquisitive mind is even playful and child-like at times, which lends charm and a sense of humor to his picture. Encounters fully encapsulates the environment of its subject. It is far more fulfilling than a film of its modest running time (99 minutes) has any right to be.
After walking out of the theatre, I pondered what the point of it all was. Global warming is mentioned, but is not the focus and the subjects are too varied to form any sort of opinion about anything. When I sat down in the car after my cigarette, I let it go. I felt satiated, as though I had just consumed my fill of something my body didn't even know it craved.