Expedition to the End of the World: Reykjavik Review

Artful doc provokes thought on a variety of subjects.

An old ship carries an assortment of thinkers to the farthest reaches of Greenland.

An unlikely mix of thinkers ventures far into the Arctic in Expedition to the End of the World, Daniel Dencik's account of an ocean voyage to the uninhabited top of Greenland. Visually ravishing, thought-provoking and benefitting from just enough playfulness to set it apart from the nature-doc herd, the film is eco-relevant without being at all dominated by climate change, which is only one of many subjects discussed. It could appeal in niche theatrical bookings beyond the fest circuit, particularly with viewers who harbor fantasies of taking similar voyages themselves.

The genesis of the unusual trip is never discussed, nor is the fact that the ancient-tech three-mast schooner we follow evidently carried many more passengers than we meet. Instead, the doc introduces our traveling companions a la Gilligan's Island: there's "the zoologist," "the captain," "the artist," and so on. The interdisciplinary group is weighted heavily toward scientists intending to study corners of Greenland humans haven't seen in centuries, if ever, but there are just enough arts-types aboard to bring out everyone's more philosophical side.

With the academics, we dig up permafrost harboring 2,000 year-old bacteria, find rocks delineating a prehistoric playhouse, and discover an unknown species. (As someone says upon the unearthing of a millennia-old stone tool, that's cause for some extra chocolate and cognac once we're back aboard ship.) Looking into the past encourages thoughts of the future, of course -- musings about the possible death of humanity and the indifference our home planet will have to such an event. Until that day, the search for enlightenment continues, as with the resident art photographer, who scribbles diagrams in his journal meant to represent theories on the meaning of life.

Dencik and D.P. Martin Munch find the expected array of stunning vistas, milking their grandeur with Mozart at one moment, then invoking tectonic violence (or just reminding us they have a sense of humor) with a touch of Metallica. Denick's approach is only slightly off-kilter, just cryptic enough to make one wonder what Werner Herzog would have made of this trip. Certainly Herzog would have offered some insights into the hows and whys of the mission, even if they were invented for his own amusement.

Production Company: Haslund Film Aps

Director: Daniel Dencik

Producer: Michael Haslund-Christensen

Executive producer: Janus Metz

Director of photography: Martin Munch

Music: Mads Heldtberg

Editors: Per Sandholt, Rebekka Lonqvist

No rating, 89 minutes