Anthony Powell (or “Antz,” as his friends call him) has been working at both New Zealand’s Scott Base and the U.S.’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica since 1998. He, along with the wife he met there, are part of the small group that lives there full-time. Wanting to convey why he’d stay in a place that is not only cut off from the rest of the world for six months of the year, but also experiences winters that are so cold he’s come to think -40ºC is a “pleasant” day, he created Antarctica: A Year on Ice.
It took over ten years to make, since a large part of the cinematography involves time-lapse photography; he wanted to capture views of things that couldn’t be understood properly in any other way. For instance, the sun stays up for four months straight, then slowly starts to sink further and further toward the horizon, until it disappears. Using time-lapse, we can feel the same dread the people who live there do when they see that happening. Yet, also using time-lapse, he illustrates how serene and crisp the night sky is — you can see the Milky Way so clearly, and Aurora Borealis is so beautiful! — so the fact that it sticks around for four months doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, after all. This, he explains, is the epiphany everyone has the first time they “winter over.” And now we understand.
For beautiful photography of an almost-untouched continent, as well as a chance to experience what it’s like to live there, I highly recommend this film. There isn’t any other look at the world’s most mysterious continent quite like this one. The decade Antz spent making it certainly wasn’t spent in vain.