Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Snow Country For Bold Men

I've banged on before about some of the BFI's amazing new DVD and Blu-ray releases so don't make me repeat myself. Just know that this week sees the release of The Great White Silence, which I missed at last year's London Film Festival for reasons which escape me, although they had better be bloody good ones.

When Captain Robert Falcon Scott (R.N., C.V.O.) decided to jeff off to the literal arse end of the world in 1911, he had the foresight to take along Herbert Ponting (F.R.G.S., F.R.P.S., F.Z.S.) (no idea) and his new-fangled moving picture-recording box so that, 100 years on, people could sit in the comfort of their own homes and relive his tragic story with a nice cup of tea and a Hob Nob.
Ponting's footage, silent and tinted, forms this documentary, originally released in 1924 and stunningly restored by the BFI. It tells the story of the Terra Nova's doomed expedition to the South Pole from a first-hand perspective, though it's bulked out by Ponting's observations on the behavioural patterns of seals and penguins, which nobody had yet studied at such close quarters. And while it's mostly a serious document of an historic event, Ponting still finds time for some early-20th Century LOLs:
Those three-month-long stretches of perpetual winter nights must have just flown by.

Hilarity aside, The Great White Silence features some stunning photography - the polar landscape looks like the surface of an alien planet, especially when it's tinted purple - and is undeniably moving as it reaches its bitter, frozen finale. It's also massively educational: apparently there are VOLCANOES on the polar ice caps! The expedition took TWO YEARS! Seals are ADORABLE and TASTY!

This release features a new, ethereal soundtrack and buckets of extras for all you South Pole fans out there, and while The Great White Silence is probably more effective in a cinema with an audience, it's still worth a peep on DVD. Probably even more so on Blu-ray. So peep away.

1 comment :

  1. The photography was the triumph of what otherwise was a tragic waste of life and resources just to be able to plonk a flag on the bit of the globe where the rod goes in and pops out again at the North Pole. Scott is one of many heroic twits.

    You are sleeping in a tent when a bear enters, wakes you up and you run away one mile South then one mile East then one mile North and find your tent again.
    What colour was the bear?
    Only at the North Pole can you do the S,E,N journey and be back where you started. The bear is a polar bear.