Combustible Celluloid
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Written by: Simon Price, Anthony Powell
Directed by: Anthony Powell
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and language
Running Time: 91
Date: 11/28/2014

Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ice of Heaven

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In Antarctica, there exist several research stations where scientists, engineers, technicians, and other experts live and work during the summer months, when the sun can be seen in the sky, and during one period, never completely sets. But in the winter months, a handful of brave souls stay behind to endure storms, isolation, disorientation, and a brutal number of weeks when the sun cannot be seen at all. Filmmaker Anthony Powell keeps his cameras rolling in the bitter cold, picking up incredible time-lapse images, interviews with workers, and moments of jubilance, moments of heartbreak, and moments of truly astounding confrontations between man and nature at her most intense.

Powell apparently spent ten years making this film, suffering frozen camera equipment and other setbacks. He does not focus on what the research stations actually study, and he rarely interviews scientists. The climate crisis is only briefly alluded to. Rather, he interviews everyday workers, mechanics, clerks, and administrators that help run things. The summer season then sharply clashes with the intense physical and emotional experience of a few dozen souls braving the winter months.

Powell does not fail to let tiny details slip by, like frozen bathroom pipes, 200 mile-an-hour winds, cravings for fresh vegetables, missing out on family events back home, and the very odd "T3 Syndrome," wherein workers very simply forget things they were doing moments before. Workers are unable to interfere with nature, so they can't rescue a lost baby seal, but they are allowed to fall in love, and Powell gets his own happy ending.

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