'The Great White Silence' Returns to the Big Screen

by Gem Wheeler

1 December 2011

Herbert G Ponting's classic 1924 silent film, The Great White Silence, is back on the big screen, its breathtaking polar imagery restored and accompanied by a haunting new soundtrack.
 

Scott of the Antarctic and his doomed expedition may have disappeared into the pristine, icy wastes, never to return, but their last despairing notes were not the only record of their attempt to reach the South Pole. A beautifully restored new version of official cameraman Herbert G Ponting’s film of the expedition is currently touring cinemas around the UK, and is available on DVD from the British Film Institute.

A magnificently atmospheric soundtrack from composer Simon Fisher Turner lends the incredible imagery added mystery. Ponting’s masterful deployment of colour and tone give the Antarctic the air of an alien planet, as indeed it must have seemed to the members of the British Antarctic Survey. The smiles and enthusiasm of the team only serve to heighten the sense of creeping dread: this is a horror movie, in the truest sense. Ponting edited the film together some ten years after the expedition foundered, and that hindsight informs every frame. A mesmerising, evocative glimpse of a lost world.

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