S.O.S. Eisberg

S.O.S. Eisberg

S.O.S. Eisberg (Original Title)

"This is the story of four men, who set off to Greenland to rescue an explorer, who was with them on an earlier expedition and who got lost and was assumed to be dead. However, a piece of jetsam arrives on land and proves that he really is still alive. So the expedition returns to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and gets into trouble crossing a half-frozen fjord, which carries them out to sea.

While all the action of this film takes place within a few hundred feet of sea level, this is definitely a Bergfilm by the master of the genre, Arnold Fanck, in that it shows the struggle of the individual against the relentlessly lethal Nature, which wins more often than not. Bergfilme are not about wonderful dialogs or intricate plots --- they're about iconic heroes sternly staring into the face of an implicable, oncoming storm. This is even reflected in the film's music: wonderfully stirring and fitting the action perfectly, it sounds very much like a cross between an heroic passage in a Richard Strauss symphonic poem and something right out of Triumph of the Will (and is this not, actually, just that: A Triumph of the Spirit over adversity?).

Leni Riefenstahl, a veteran director of many such movies in the genre, plays an aviatrix in search of her missing husband. The cinematography of the icebergs is absolutely spectacular. The shifts between scenes shot in outdoor sets and those actually filmed in Greenland are seamlessly pieced together. You won't be able to discern between the two. The acting, on the other hand, wouldn't get an Oscar, even if susbtantial bribes were made and the judges were deaf and dumb (my personal favorite: Ernst Udet, who plays himself, has just found a stranded Leni Riefenstahl on the ice. No doubt convinced their doom was but days away, she somehow manages not to smear her makeup and when Ernst finds her, screams to him that he should keep flying to search for another explorer. Udet's response? ""Okay ... see you soon!"" ... Excuse me?!? See you soon?!? I don't think so!).

There is plenty to give cynical viewers something to chuckle over: explorers, fully clothed, swimming in 32F waters, which would cause lesser supermen to cramp up almost instantly and drown, because the shock of the cold would make muscle control impossible; radiomen trying to reach the stranded explorers and mentioning --- for some God-knows-why reason --- that they haven't heard from the explorers in weeks; crazed and starved members of the crew attacking polar bears, who growl like lions, with spears, hoping to drag their 1000+ pound carcasses through the water to their ice floe to have a dinner of polar steak; the Eskimos arriving in kayaks to save everyone at the last minute, like a cavalry scene from a bad 30s Western ... However, if you accept the film for what it is ... a symphony of ice and water and brutal Nature in a dark conflict with the human will to survive ... rather than judge it cinematographically, you will not be disappointed. Those who enjoy National Geographic specials and similar documentaries, will enjoy this the most."

1h 30min
September 25, 1933
Additional materials
English dubbed short version

Admin comments

Cinematography is wonderful. Amazing adventure film made in Greenland. The storyline is interesting including the real footage in Greenland. The shots of the frozen north, the icebergs, and the freezing Atlantic serve as a spectacular backdrop for the story. The aerial shots of rescue planes are also great. The filming of the iceberg as it breaks apart and rolls in the ocean as it seeks a new balancing point is a one-of-a-kind scene.

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