“The Great White Silence” @ BFI Southbank

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5月20日より公開される、ロバート・スコット率いる南極探検(1910〜1913年)の記録映画「The Great White Silence(1924年)」を見た。隊に同行したHerbert Ponting(ハーバート・ポンティング)が、探検隊と南極の大自然やそこに生息する動物たちを記録。「The Great White Silence」は、1924年に彼が、実写映像に字幕、写真、地図、肖像画などを組み合わせ、着色・再編集した映像を、BFI National Archive英国映画協会ナショナル・アーカイヴ)が最新デジタル技術を駆使し、色鮮やかに蘇らせた、ドキュメンタリー・サイレント映画だ。

南極探検なんて興味がなかったし、アムンセンやスコットなど、大昔に勉強した初期探検隊のわずかばかりの知識しかなく、途中で寝てしまうかもという不安を抱えて行ったのだが、これがなかなかの当たりだった。100年も前に生きた探検隊たちの日常生活や探検の準備の記録に加え、愛嬌のある顔つきのアデリー・ペンギンやあざらしの親子、赤ちゃんアザラシを狙うシャチの群れ、カモメの孵化の様子など、厳しい自然の中に生きる動物たちの生き生きとした生態や、巨大な氷山や氷の形成といった南極の幽玄で壮大な景観を写し出した映像は、素晴らしかった。サイモン・フィッシャー・ターナー(Simon Fisher Turner)が、当時の蓄音機で探検隊が聴いていたレコードや、南極大陸に向けて乗船したTerra Nova(テラ・ノヴァ)号の鐘の音などを取り入れて作り上げた、モダンで叙情的な音楽と相まって、映画の最後の瞬間まで楽しんだ。

前半の南極基地や動物たちの楽しげな映像の後に続く、南極点への厳しい道のり、そしてスコット隊がノルウェーのアムンセン隊に南極点到達の先を超され、失意の帰還の途上、食料が置かれたデポまであと20kmのところで猛吹雪に見舞われ、テントの中で息絶えたというエンディングは、既知の事実だとは言え、やはり涙を誘われる。

We saw a silent documentary “The Great White Silence (1924)” , the official film record of Captain Robert Falcon Scott‘s Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole from 1910 to 1913, which opens in cinemas on May 20. The expedition’s official photographer and cinematographer Herbert Ponting filmed almost every aspect of the expedition: the scientific work, life in camp and the local wildlife. In 1924, he re-edited the footage as a narrative, introducing intertitles as well as incorporating his own stills, maps, portraits, paintings and animated models, complete with vivid tinting and toning. BFI National Archive has restored the film using the latest photochemical and digital techniques and reintroduced the film’s sophisticated use of colour.

I was no interest in expedition of any kind and was not so keen to see the movie, with very little knowledge of early South pole expeditions that I studied long time ago. I was even worried to fall a sleep during the screening, but the film was far more exciting than I expected. In addition to the lives of the expedition members  who had lived 100 years ago and preparations for the journey, the film also shows us living the harsh ice lands’ creatures including funny Adélie penguins, warm interaction of mother and cub seals, killer whales chasing the cub, and newly hatched seagull chicks, as well as great landscape of the South pole such as huge iceberg and ice formation – it was vivid, dramatic and truly awesome. And the film is beautiful matched with lyrical and modern new score by Simon Fisher Turner, including pre-recorded elements and relevant ‘found sounds’ such as Terra Nova ship’s bell and scores from some of the records played by members of the expeditions using the expedition’s original gramophone. I enjoyed from the beginning til the end, on contrary to my prediction.

After the cheerful footage of the base and cute animals, Scott’s long and tough journey to the South Pole started but ended with tragedy, with huge disappoint ment after finding out that Norwegian Amundsen expedition team reached the goal first. The ending was very sad – Scott and his men ended their lives, when a fierce blizzard prevented them from making any progress, just 11 miles /18 km away from the depot. It was a well-known fact but still made me almost cry…

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