Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Gorgeous archival footage figured… in The Endurance, Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, which skillfully blended images past and present in a kind of filmmaking that may become extinct given the increasing number of films being shot, often indifferently, on digital video. The story of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s perilous journey across the Antarctic and his heroic leadership in the face of the most extreme adversity imaginable has been told before, and Frank Hurley’s lovely, graphic black-and-white film footage, shot on the original expedition, has been seen on the screen in various forms. [South and Endurance featured at the 1999 Festival.] Director George Butler’s most significant contribution to the legend is newly shot footage of the original polar locations that is as breathtaking as a plunge into Antarctic waters. The immensity of these new colour vistas invests the story with the urgency of the present. — Rachel Rosen, Film Comment, 3-4/01
It’s the failed expeditions that seem to really capture our imaginations, and Ernest Shackleton’s attempt in 1914 to traverse the Antarctic continent failed spectacularly. Shackleton and his crew never even made landfall – their ship ground to a halt amidst pack ice just 100 miles short of their destination. Their ship, the Endurance, never moved again, and the crew spent two years in increasingly desperate attempts to escape the pitiless ice and sea. But, in a priceless boon for armchair explorers everywhere, they brought a movie camera!
Their flabbergasting saga has enjoyed a resurgence in the last couple of years thanks to co-writer Caroline Alexander’s recent book and a marvelous multimedia exhibit at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, as well as to a renewed appreciation for Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership skills. Narrated by Liam Neeson, The Endurance turns the gripping story into a palpable here-and-now experience, with fascinating interviews with historians and the crew members’ surviving families, splendidly read excerpts from crew journals, the eerie silent footage shot by crew member Frank Hurley – ghostly black figures floating in a horizonless field of pure white – and newly shot footage of the actual locations that brings to bone-chilling life the stark majesty of Antarctica and the heroic feat of their simply surviving it. You may want to bundle up for this one. — Tod Booth, San Francisco Film Festival 2001