Review: Long live the Antipodes! (2011)


Directed by Victor Kossakovsky | 105 minutes | documentary

“What would it be like to fall through the earth?” That might be a rather strange question to ask, let alone answer. Yet the Russian documentary maker Victor Kossakovsky tries to answer this question in his own way with the documentary “¡Vivan las Antipodas!” (Life of the antipodes). He does this on the basis of four so-called antipodes. An antipode (literally “antipode”) is a geographic term used to indicate places that are exactly opposite each other on our globe. By means of short documentaries about these antipodes, he gives a nice picture of the differences and similarities between these locations that are so far apart on earth.

In ‘¡Vivan las Antipodas!’ The four antipodes discussed are Shanghai and Entre Rios (Argentina), Patagonia (Chile) and Lake Baikal (Russia), Kubu in Botswana and the Big Island in Hawaii and finally Miraflores (Spain) and the opposite Castle Point (New Zealand). It is certainly an interesting choice, because they are often relatively unknown regions. Outside the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, they are all locations where cities are in no field or road to be seen. This makes the contrast between Shanghai and Entre Rios all the more beautiful, with which the documentary opens. While life and time seem to stand still in the Entre Rios countryside, the contrast with the metropolis of Shanghai couldn’t be greater. A beautiful camera shot, which tilts the world just as the earth tilts, makes the documentary jump from one antipode to another.

This beautiful camera work is often used and the different locations are all spectacularly portrayed. Whether it is the vast emptiness of Lake Baikal, the volcanic activity in Hawaii or the stunning images of Patagonia in Chile, the beauty of the locations is just right on the screen. Yes, “¡Vivan las Antipodas!” Knows how to portray the variation of mother earth beautifully. And although the contrast between the different antipodes is not always the same, this does not detract from the beauty of these images. There are hardly any dialogues in this documentary, at most a few locals who say to each other that it is a quiet day again. Or a girl living on Lake Baikal who wishes to be reincarnated as water later on to her mother. The conversations are often illustrative of the timeless life on these corners of the earth.

Criticisms can certainly be found. The supporting music, for example, is of a changeable level. At times it is very well hit and it completes the picture, but at times they miss the point and the music is inappropriate. A pity, because the documentary relies heavily on the music due to the lack of dialogues or an accompanying voice. The film also has a dip towards the end and in particular the last two places, Miraflores and Castle Point, are less extensively and less strongly discussed than the other six. With over 100 minutes, “Vivan las Antipodes” is a bit on the long side. Yet the image that remains is that of the beauty of the earth and especially the variation in natural and urban beauty, which makes “Vivan las Antipodas!” Definitely recommended.

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