The sea around the frozen continent of Antarctica is residence to a number of birds which fly over the water and plunder it for food, though the penguins tend to stay on the land as much as they do swim. There are also seals there which behave much as the penguins do, when they're not feeding they will loaf at the shore and take in the world around them, but mostly as Summer winds down into the Autumn there's not much to do other than that. The air is filled with the cries of the birds and the barks of the seals, the dull roar of the ocean and the whistling of the wind, but it's a peaceful life in the cold climate...
Music composer Johan Johansson had a sideline in directing and writing his own movies, largely fairly short affairs - End of Summer was just under half an hour - and presumably would have gone on to make more than two, but that was all we had from him as he died in middle-age. There's no way this pair of works would eclipse his soundtrack pieces for movies like Sicario, Mandy or Arrival, but you got the impression these were deeply personal, even if here there was a simplicity to the film that was to its benefit. Don't go looking for any piercing insight, mind you, as there was not much more to this than shots of endless penguins in black and white.
Johansson's music, scored to match every landscape and seascape we were supplied with, was of the ambient style, which actually offered the location a more relaxing mood than you might have anticipated. The idea of Antarctica in the common consciousness is of a wild, inhospitable, untameable white desert of snow and ice, if anything a place for adventure and exploration, yet with this there was a sense of calm, of somewhere you could visit to get away from it all rather than be somewhere to head off to as a destination in itself. The director had captured the imagery himself on a black and white 8mm camera, which offered a timeless quality that was as if it had been filmed by explorers of around the turn of the nineteenth century, not over a hundred years later.
Now, as immersive as that was, to use a popular buzzword, it was difficult to make any great claims for something so unassuming and mild in effect, and while there was an elegiac tone to it should you wish to contemplate the damage being done to Antarctica's environment thanks to global warming, mostly it was a lot of clips of penguins hanging out. Maybe the odd seal as well. You can see why Johansson was attracted to these birds as his subject matter, after all, who doesn't like penguins? But he made a virtue of his monotony, and if anything End of Summer was over too soon, as you could quite easily have watched another hour of the grainy monochrome with the droning music, the sort of experience that would make for a decent late night movie before bed to get you in the mood for some truly zonked out dreaming as the darkness finally falls for however many months at the conclusion of the project. If there was a slight holiday video appearance to this, only a holiday video of decades ago, that wasn't so bad, and it did have the distinction of being one of the few films produced by Antarctica.
[Click here to watch on MUBI.]