Documentary film “Into The Ice” in the cinema: In the not so eternal ice – culture

Midday in the frozen desert: Professor Jason Box uses the sun, strips down to his underpants, sunglasses and neon-colored headscarf, throws his sleeping mat in the snow and does a few yoga exercises: chaturanga, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog. All around him nothing but a glistening, shadowless white stretching to the horizon, above it a bright blue sky, empty and wide.

Box is not a crazy yogi looking for himself, but a glacier explorer. He and his Japanese colleague Masashi Niwano are hiking for twelve days across one of the most inhospitable places on earth: the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest ice cap in the world after Antarctica. They take measurements to find out how much snow has fallen in the last year. They are only equipped with the essentials: cross-country skis, tent, camping stove, measuring devices, laptop, memory cards. The other side – the unrelenting nature – competes against them with sub-zero temperatures, ice storms and crevasses.

They will be accompanied by the documentary filmmaker Lars Henrik Ostenfeld, who made his film “Into the Ice” from this trip and two other trips with glacier researchers. For about 80 minutes, Ostenfeld calmly and without exaggerated drama shows what climate researchers have been saying for a long time: the earth is getting too warm. Quasi-naked yoga on the Greenland ice, that used to be possible on the Greenland ice sheet in midsummer. But definitely not in April. Or, as Box puts it, “When you realize what’s going on here, you don’t sleep well at night.”

Glacial mills allow descent into the depths of the ice

In “Into the Ice” the minimalistic beauty of Greenland, which Ostenfeld captures in long shots, joins the reality of the climate catastrophe. They could be framed like works of art: ice crystals whipped by the wind like a low-lying ground fog; glacial waves turning towards the ocean like a frozen stream; and glacial mills – huge cathedrals carved into the ice by water, reaching hundreds of meters below.

In addition to these impressive images, the documentary filmmaker explains the background of climate change research on Greenland: For example, although it is common knowledge that the ice is melting, nobody knows exactly how fast. And that, although that is perhaps “the most pressing question”. In German, this narrator part is taken over by Campino, the singer of the dead pants. With his voice, which is not trained for articulation, he is exactly the right man to guide us through the drama of the no longer so eternal ice.

Besides Box and Niwano, Ostenfeld meets other stars of glaciology: extreme scientist Alun Hubbard and the “Ice Queen” Dorthe Dahl-Jensen. The research of the three is the yin to the yang of radar measurements and laser data from space, which NASA, for example, collects. If you look at the fluctuations in climate change models, you know that the latter are not always entirely accurate. In order to readjust, Box and his colleagues go out on the ice to find the “ground truth” – the truth on the spot.

Documentary film "Into the Ice" in the cinema: Down into the depths: Alun Hubbard rappels down into a glacial mill.Documentary film "Into the Ice" in the cinema: Down into the depths: Alun Hubbard rappels down into a glacial mill.

Down into the depths: Alun Hubbard abseils into a glacial mill.

(Foto: Rise and Shine Cinema)

Admittedly, the calm landscape shots, the somewhat taciturn scientists, the reduced dramaturgy: “Into the Ice” has its lengths. In contrast to other nature documentaries, there aren’t even any cuddly animals that scurry through the picture from time to time. But if you get involved with the pace of the film, you can be won over by its quiet emotionality: Box suddenly weeping with relief because his data is complete. Dahl-Jensen happily demonstrating how to “stand with one foot in the Ice Age”. Or Hubbard, who climbs 180 meters deep into a glacial mill (deeper than anyone has ever done before!) and recaps his life beforehand.

At that point, at the latest, one senses the danger that constantly resonates in the film. If you’re not careful, you’ll die quickly in the ice. The film also deals with this immanent threat. Because even if “Into the Ice” doesn’t brag about it: These extreme researchers are putting their lives at risk. For the rest of humanity, that is, for us.

The journey to the interior of the ice, DK/D 2022 – director, camera: Lars Henrik Ostenfeld. Book: Caspar Haarlov. Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen. With Jason Box, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Alun Hubbard. Rental: Rise and Shine Cinema, 86 minutes. Theatrical release: September 15, 2022.