Home Video Hovel: Antarctica: A Year on Ice, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Of all the continents in the world, Antarctica is the one with the most mystique. Desolate of many kinds of life, barely encroached upon by man, it’s a place on Earth that feels almost alien. Anthony Powell makes a middling directorial debut with Antarctica: A Year on Ice. As the title implies, we see Antarctica throughout the course of a year. Instead of focusing on nature with stunning time-lapse photography sequences, Powell makes a gross miscalculation. He focuses on the quirky personalities that make up the sparse human population of Antarctica. Stretched across thirty bases with individuals from several different countries, the non-stop parade of bored, bearded jackanapes grows tiresome.
There are several interesting moments on display but they don’t amount to much thanks to Powell’s scattershot approach to the reams and reams of footage he had to work with. We see a few cute shots of penguins before we cut to a scene of a dead penguin. “Frozen penguin corpses litter the ice. That’s something you don’t see on TV,” Powell deadpans. On a clear night, you can see countless stars. There’s a regular trek Powell has to make on an ATV. Visibility is often nothing and he’s being guided entirely by GPS.
The human angle comes off as an especially mopey episode of The Office. To kill boredom, they’ll play improvised games with cardboard boxes. Several of the people stationed on Antarctica for a year mention how they miss pivotal moments in their families’ lives- the death of a father, the birth of a niece. Powell himself started an annual film festival where one film is submitted from each Antarctic base. They appear to be comedic variants on 300 and look fun, if a bit ropey. Several people pine to eat an avocado.
Perhaps the mountains of footage Powell shot could have made a compelling miniseries. When presented as a feature film, the clashes in tone between the beautiful silence of nature and the endless whining on base are too much to bear. Antarctica: A Year on Ice has its moments, but they can’t save this chilly little documentary.
Antarctica: A Year on Ice premieres on VOD on 3/24 and and Blu-ray/DVD 414.