What is it about Werner Herzog’s voice that makes his commentary go down so smoothly throughout his documentaries? The subject is always not just the subject but also his relationship to it. Here he is at the South Pole, interviewing a woman who studies seals milk (if you let it cool it would be like paste and you couldn’t pour it). The seals lie on the ice indolent as hollywood starlets sunbathing poolside. Suddenly a scientist puts a plastic bag over the mother’s head to extract her milk. She doesn’t move, but tenses up and makes a noise.
Later, the scientist describes the noises the seals make underwater, a series of clicks and explosions, and unearthly music, as they travel and seek each other.
The penguins Herzog objects to, having seen too many of them already in the other cute endearing movies of recent years. So he finds a penguin who is deranged or just not interested in surviving. We watch it as it walks in the wrong direction to certain death.
We also meet a joyful scientist whose research is the iceberg which is constantly shifting, and another man who studies single cell organisms, a man made happy by the neutrinos that will be captured in the strastosphere by a helium balloon.
The scientists are travelers — if you shook the world upside down, the people who were left would land here on the south pole.
But Herzog is most akin to the forklift operator who is also a philosopher. When he was young, his mother read the Odyssey to him, and he fell in love with the world, and has been traveling ever since.