Top positive review
67 of 69 people found this helpful
on 4 June 2011
I have just seen this film at the cinema and it was wonderful. It was made in 1924 so the commentary is in written words on the screen, like the old silent movies. The first half is an account of the journey to Antarctica and then a light hearted wild life documentary about the gulls, seals and penguins. The journey starts with the whaler, Terra Nova, setting off from New Zealand and includes wonderful footage of members of the crew taking a turn at Irish and Russian dancing. When the boat is crashing through enormous waves, you almost feel the lurching sensation. The first glimpse of an enormous iceberg is breath taking. We see the bow of the boat breaking through the ice, and then we see how Ponting filmed it, lying precariously on a wooden frame hanging off the side of the boat.
We then see the expedition men setting up camp, using dogs and Siberian ponies to pull the sleighs. Current writing about Scott's journey to the South Pole tends to emphasise the flaws in the operation: the ponies were ill or unsuitable, the men didn't know how to ski etc. but this is a wonderfully cheerful and optimistic view of the start of the expedition where all seems to be going to plan.
About two thirds of the way through the film, (and just when you are beginning to tire a little of the penguins), there is a shift of tone and the story of the race to the Pole begins. Ponting uses maps and animated models aswell as still shots of the five men who went all the way to the South Pole. There is footage of the men hauling the sledges and then setting up camp for the night: cooking up the beef soup, drying out their layers of damp socks and wriggling into their fur sleeping bags. It feels quite incredible to see this on film.
For anyone with an interest in this expedition, the footage of the stormy sea, the Great Ice Barrier, Mount Erebus billowing smoke, and the men themselves brings the story to life in a way that books can't do. I'm so glad that it is being issued on DVD.