Research Blog Antarctica #15

Fiction film: Charles Sturridge: Shackleton (U.K. 2002)

A fictional dramatization of the same Shackleton story featured in the documentary of the previous entry. It’s a story that became very fashionable especially in Britain during the turn-of-the-millennium craze for Antarctica. Scott had been discredited, so the British needed a new Antarctic hero, and Shackleton fit the bill. The story of the most famous of his expeditions, the 1914-1917 Trans-Antarctic Expedition, is certainly dramatic enough to survive all the adulation.

The star of this four-hour double- tv-movie is Kenneth Branagh, who’s likeness to Shackleton himself is uncanny. The script takes no liberties and the period detail is impeccable, making this a joy to watch if you’re an Antarctica geek. Unfortunately, the direction is rather pedestrian and the script has an inexplicable reluctance to underline the more incredible parts of the story. For example, based on the movie we might think that Shackleton’s famous final boat journey was an affair of a few days, while in reality it took three weeks to cover a distance of over 1000 kilometers.

Another problem is the TV-movie aesthetic which does great disservice to the subject. It seems that they actually shot many of the outdoor scenes on location in the Arctic, making it doubly annoying that they often have the character of bad studio shooting.

The tagline is: “On the brink of death – courage was his only weapon.”

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