Review: ‘The Great White Silence’ + ‘South & The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration on Film’
Blu-ray & DVD:
- The Great White Silence (1922)
- South & the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration on Film (1919)
Both ‘The Great White Silence’ and ‘South & the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration on Film’ are absolutely fascinating, inspiring and moving viewing experiences which affected me emotionally and sent me down an online rabbit hole to discover even more more information about something which I initially only remembered the bare bones from what little information I’d picked up at school and in television programmes.
The Great White Silence is Herbert Ponting’s official record of Captain Scott’s 1910 expedition to the South Pole, which I’m sure you’ll already be aware ended in disappointment and death.
Restored by the BFI and featuring a haunting score by Simon Fisher Turner, this looks and sounds amazing, fully immersing you into the events of over 100 years ago.
Shots from on board the ship as the crew navigate high seas and ice flows bring to life the perils they had to face before even setting foot anywhere near the South Pole. Then the daily grind for survival is highlighted as warmth, food, drink and shelter is prepared at their base camp, all juxtaposed with some light relief of playing football in what surely must have been the coldest games ever played in the history of the game.
The natural environment is shown in stunning detail, ice peaks and caves giving opportunity for Ponting to explore, while footage of penguins, seals and whales almost make you believe at times that you are watching an incredibly early BBC wildlife documentary and you’re waiting for the dulcet tones of David Attenborough to begin.
Scott and his teams fateful journey to the South Pole is tracked with both film footage and photographs, all which bring this historic event that most of us are already familiar with into far more clarity, eliciting even more respect for what they did, and all the more heartbreak seeing how they failed to be the first to arrive there, and then tugging at the heartstrings even more as their return journey tragically ended just 11 miles away from the supply drop that could have saved them.
In an age where technology has helped make expeditions worldwide safer and less dangerous, this reminds everyone of humanities desire and bravery to discover new things, no matter what the cost may be.
The special features round off a release that is an essential purchase for anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject, and if for some reason you knew nothing about Scott’s expedition, then this is your perfect starting point.
- Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
- 90° South (1933, 72 mins): Ponting’s final sound version of his legendary expedition footage
- The Great White Silence panel discussion (2011, 15 mins): a panel of experts discuss the remarkable restoration of Herbert Ponting’s extraordinary record of Captain Scott’s ill-fated race to the South Pole
- The Sound of Silence (2011, 13 mins): documentary about Simon Fisher Turner’s approach to the score
- Location field recordings (2010, 5 mins): celebrated sound recordist Chris Watson’s document of Scott’s expedition hu
- Archive newsreel items (1910-1925, 5 mins): actuality coverage of the expedition’s departure and return
- Newly created optional English subtitles for the d/Deaf and partial hearing on 90° South and The Great White Silence panel discussion
- ***FIRST PRESSING ONLY*** Fully illustrated booklet featuring a lead essay by the BFI’s Bryony Dixon, selected biographies and notes on the extras
Released on the same day is South & the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration on Film; photographed by Frank Hurley, it is the film record of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s heroic but ill-starred attempt to cross Antarctica in 1914-16.
Once again this is an epic slice of human endeavour from over 100 years ago, which often left me gasping at what humanity pushes itself to do when challenging oneself.
The restoration by the BFI National Archive is superb, adding tinting and toning to the prints to create a visually atmospheric experience that helps draw you even deeper into the journey.
Also allowing you deeper insight are the extensive collection of films (many previously unseen) from around the world on the special features and are essential viewing after the main feature has ended.
- Antarctic Expedition: Sir George Newnes’ Farewell to Officers and Crew (1998, 1 min)
- Departure of Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition from Lyttelton, New Zealand, 1908 (1908, 8 mins)
- Nihon nankyoku tanken (1912, 19 mins)
- Fram’s South Polar Expedition (22 mins)
- Australasian Antarctic Expedition Films aka The Home of the Blizzard (c1916, 68 mins)
- Pathé’s Animated Gazette No. 140 (extract, 1911, 45 secs)
- South – Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic (Frank Hurley, 1919, 81 mins)
- Topical Budget – Dogs for the Antarctic (extract, 1914, 1 min)
- Dogs for the Antarctic – Sir Ernest Shackleton’s dogs in quarantine at Beddington (extract, 1914, 1 min)
- Australasion Gazette – Captain Davis returns to Sydney… (extract, 1917, 30 secs)
- The Late Sir Ernest Shackleton Bathing Query (extract, 1922, 2 mins)
- El Homenaje Del Uruguay A Los Restos De Sir Ernest Shackleton (1922, 11 mins)
- Shackleton’s Funeral (extract, 1922, 5 mins)
- Shackleton South Georgia Birds (1920, 13 mins)
Both releases are highly recommended and released on 28th February 2022.