Friday, 20 September 2013

Henry Ponting & The Great White Silence!

So I finally made the trip out to Woodend Barn in Banchory, a newish arts venue with rather a lot going on! From gigs to dance performances, exhibitions to work shops there seems to be an abundance of activities taking place at the barn and a screening of Henry Ponting's "The Great White Silence" is the reason I finally ventured out!

The film follows Captain Scott's final polar expedition, a trip which would eventually end with Scott's death and that of his 4 man expedition team. Meticulous hand drawn titles open up to incredible black and white footage of the good ship 'Terra Nova' docked and being loaded with supplies for the journey to the Pole. Ponting was sure to capture every detail of the crew and the journey from the on board entertainment (dancing and playing fiddles) to the daily working of the ship. As they near the Polar cap the pack ice begins to appear and some incredible footage reveals how the steel plated hull smashed through the blocks, a shot which required Ponting to edge his way out on a wooden plank suspended over the ice with his movie camera, one slip and that would have been it!

The film changes colour throughout which broke it up into nice sections, along with the hand drawn titles which explained each part of the story. The sled dogs stories are quite moving, you can almost taste the excitement when they first hit land. The setting up of various camps along the route and the exploration of the surrounding area is fascinating. Its the footage of the various wildlife which inhabits the Pole, the seals, whales and birds, some of which were being captured for the very first time that amazed me, to think how it must have felt to document such amazing sights. And the magnificence of the scenery is breathtaking. All of which is complimented with a new ambient soundtrack composed by Simon Fisher Turtner (a review of which can be read here).

I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness as the film draws to an end with the team discovering they'd been beaten to the Pole by Amundsen, a fact which may have dampened their spirits and contributed to their eventual deaths. The ghostly illustration of Oates walking out to his death in an attempt to save his party is haunting and the discovery of Scott's final resting place and camp, only a few miles from their next supply depot is crushing. It was quite incredible to see movies of the expedition, bringing to life the reality and hardships of exploration in those early days but also the friendships and adventure, the excitement each man must have felt seeing new lands and sights which even now only a few are lucky enough to see first hand. Truly inspiring stuff!

If you'd like to see more photographs of the Terra Nova expedition check here, for information about Captain Scott and his men try here and check out the trailer here!