Man on Land (2006)

In a remote spot in Northern Greenland, water and sky blend into one
great indistinguishable whole. Into this isolated place comes the base
drone of a ship’s engine. Scientists dressed in bright yellow Gore-tex,
like alien visitors from another planet, make land and begin a series
of information gathering exercises. The men measure eggs, gather
samples of birds’ feathers,  and sometimes simply sit and stare off
into space. Their presence, however fleeting and odd, is merely an
isolated incident and when they disappear over a distant horizon, it’s
as if they were never there at all.

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There are many different types of time in director Ariane Michel’s
austerely elegant docu-essay. There is time measured in the geological
layers of rock and ice, the movement of the seasons, the arc of the sun
across the sky, even the whine of mosquitoes. Using a static camera,
Michel’s film is formally executed, with a profound level of attention
to the quality of sound (the buffeting roar of the wind is almost
constant throughout) and the framed images of rocks and flowers, ice
and water. Musk ox, polar bears, seals and walruses simply do what they
do, magnificently indifferent to the bumbling yellow figures in their
midst. In this silence, a human voice (in the form of a distant radio
transmission) comes almost as a shock. A humbling immersion in a world
in which humans are simply fleeting things, Man on Land is an utterly remarkable achievement. Winner of the Grand Prize, Documentary Festival of Marseilles. – 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival

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