Fiction film: Koreyoshi Kurahara: Antarctica (Japan, 1983)
One of the two great, old school Antarctic movie classics, along with the Thing. I’ve already seen the U.S. remake of this movie, Eight Below, so it was wonderful to finally get my hands on the original.
It doesn’t disappoint. It’s a movie about sledge dogs, so a certain amount of sentimentality may be expected, but it was interesting to see the way the Japanese Antarctic expedition members were shown to work with their dogs, compared to the sugarcoated American version.
The movie had a bizarre structure and the emotional beats don’t work so well if you don’t like dogs, but it more than made up for that with the authentic ice-breaker scenes, the first truly miserable sledging scene I’ve seen in a movie so far, and with a beautiful, moving scene depicting the dogs and aurora australis in the long night of the Antarctic winter.
Documentary film: Greg Grainger: Wildest Antarctica (Australia, 1998)
A nature documentary featuring gorgeously beautiful cinematography and many pictures of penguins. Unfortunately, all the best shots are used right at the beginning to introduce the movie, while rousing music plays in the background. You spend the rest of the film vaguely disappointed that it can’t follow up on the opening spectacle.
Documentary film: Greg Grainger: Wildest Arctic (Australia, 1999)
The companion piece to Wildest Antarctic, this is a decidedly weaker movie. Maybe because the Antarctic ecosystem is such a clearly demarcated, cohesive whole and the Arctic is a jumble of local systems, the movie can get downright confusing. It doesn’t really explain where we are at different times, and I got confused when the movie jumps from the caribou of North America to the lynx of northern Finland.