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Pole sitter

By PETER KEOUGH  |  July 1, 2008

This film seems a bit rosier than Grizzly Man a few years back. Have you become a more mellow person since then?
No, no, it’s just the subject I’m dealing with. With Grizzly Man, it’s not that I invented the story. I relied heavily on incredible footage that Timothy Treadwell shot, and of course we know he was killed and eaten by a bear together with his girlfriend, so it’s a very tragic story. But when you do a film in Antarctica and all this joy of being down there and being allowed to set your foot on this continent and exploring the incredible beauty of this place, that, of course, will translate into a different general mood.

Is it all true? What is the difference between a non-fiction documentary film and a fiction film?
No, it’s all movies. And all my documentaries — put it in quotes please, all my “documentaries” — are somehow secret feature films anyway. I stylize, I stage, I invent. For example, in Encounters at the End of the World, I just declare some things that we are seeing as pure science fiction. And all of a sudden you see the science fiction in it, as if it were not of our planet. For example, these endless tunnels carved right under the South Pole, into the ice, deep underground, 70 degrees below zero, and at the end of one of these tunnels, under the mathematically true South Pole, someone, a maintenance worker apparently, has dug some sort of a shrine into the ice and stashed away a deep-frozen sturgeon. So how strange can it get? You can’t invent something like this.

What does it mean?
I think we should not ask. I actually know what happened, and why the sturgeon was stolen, and why it was put there, but if I start to explain it, all the image will lose its mystery and its beauty.

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