The Great White Silence DVD + Blu-ray (2011) C A P T A I N R O B E R T F A L C O N S C O T T
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Dual Format Edition 
Director: Herbert Ponting
Number of Discs: 1
DVD Release Date: 20 Jun 2011
‘The official record of Captain Scott's legendary expedition to the South Pole restored by the BFI and presented , with live musical performance from Simon Fisher Turner, on DVD & Blu-ray for the first time' ~ BFI
1924, 106 MINS, BW/TINTED, UK
Director: Herbert G. Ponting
Be honest now. In your mind's eye, when you think of Robert Falcon Scott's tragic expedition to the South Pole, what do you see? When he moves in the frozen landscape of your dreams tell me what you see. I wager it isn't Scott at all but John Mills and his interpretation of Scott for the 1948 Ealing film Scott of the Antarctic. So you see Scott without his face but with the face of Mills, a study in frozen-upper-lipped Britishness battling, heroically, ultimately insurmountable odds in his quest for Union Jack glory.
And what is your soundtrack to Scott and his Antarctic? Does sound ever creep into your great white silence? Is it the ethereal, haunting movie score by Vaughan Williams by any chance? I wager it is.
So our view of one of the great historic moments of the 20th-century is based on artifice, shaped by the vision of the film's director, Charles Frend.
John Mills lent his face to Scott and Scott never returned it
For Herbert Ponting's (the expediion's professional cameraman) incredible footage of the actual expedition has hitherto been pushed to the perimeters of the expedition's historic vision. It has become a secret world when, in fact, it's never been a secret at all. The footage was widely screened in the 1910s and 1920s as part of Ponting's own lectures about the expedition that ran into well over a 1000. Thereafter, he refashioned the footage into two stand-alone feature-lenghth documentaries, The Great White Silence (1924) and 90º South (1933).
These both are included on this release but this release is sold on the back of The Great White Silence as it's the end product of an extensive and award-winning restoration that was unveiled at the 2010 London Film Festival. The new score by Simon Fisher Turner that accompanied that unveiling is featured here.
'Herbert Ponting was an artist in love with his work' ~ CAPTAIN SCOTT
Boy, the end results are astonishing thanks in no small-part to the quality of the century-old images. That the original 35mm negatives survived is remarkable in its own right (how many films of this vintage have survived?) and is thanks to them being donated to the BFI shortly after Ponting's death. Thus the proper preservation was ensued - without this donation I'm sure they would have been lost in the midsts of time.
Whatever you think about Scott you have to say he was a canny businessman. By inviting a professional cameraman and through media rights ensuring a significant financial contribution to the expedition's fundraising he must have been a pioneer of sponsorhip. And putting aside the commercial angle the historical value of these images is invaluable. They are just a joy to behold: from the opening shots of the ship Terra Nova negotiating pack ice, to the scientific aspects of the expedition; and penguins, penguins, penguins!
ART & ARTIFICE
Yes, this is artifice again but it is first-hand artifice. Ponting did not accompany the Scott party on the final leg of their journey to the South Pole, but he was blessed with luck. Four of the men he filmed demonstaring sledging and survival techniques made up 80% of the final party. Luck because Scott only made the decision on who was to accompany him on the final, final leg at the very last moment during this journey a long, long away from base camp. Thus, Ponting was able to intercut this footage with stills, maps, animated models and intertitles to recreate the full journey.
He creates the 'you are there' impression even though you are not there and neither was he. Well, not at the end. But it is beautiful artifice and as real as the moving image can ever be.
 90o South (1933, 72 minutes): Herbert Ponting's final sound version of the legendary footage he shot in 1910 -11
 Newsreel Items (1910-1925, 4 minutes, DVD only)
 Great White Silence: How Did They Did Do It? (2011, 23 minutes): the Discovery Channel's documentary about the restoration
 The Sound of Silence (2011, 12 minutes): featurette on Simon Fisher Turner's new score
 Fully illustrated booklet
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