A radiant celebration of the natural wonders of Planet Earth, humanity included, Viktor Kossakovsky’s ¡Vivan las Antipodas! is a sublime achievement in feel-good documentary. Think Baraka or Koyaanisqatsi made with humour and the exquisite constraint of a controlling idea: to film only pairs of places that are each other’s antipodes.
If you dug a hole straight through the central core of the planet, where would you come out? For most of the world’s inhabitants the answer is at the bottom of some sea or other. Kossakovsky takes us to four pairs of places where the journey back and forth yields much livelier results. In remote Argentina, two brothers, accompanied by their aged dog, operate a toll bridge. Kossakovsky’s camera connects them to their polar opposites in frantic Shanghai. A woman and her daughter by a Russian lake find their opposite in a Patagonian shepherd accompanied by a throng of purposeful cats. A man searching for his dog on the lava beds of Hawaii is matched by a hypnotising encounter with a lion in Botswana. A beached whale on a Wairarapa beach is the vice versa of a butter fly in Spain, New Zealand’s very own antipodes.
Kossakovsky exalts in the extremes of light imbalance and HD focus that the latest digital cameras have opened up. His imposingly framed images are abundant with vivid details and he gives the eye time to roam and alight on them. As the soundtrack binds one location to the next, and the camera glides with a condor in flight or slowly turns the planet upside down, Kossakovsky’s ebullience as a filmmaker is inseparable from his joie de vivre. Months later just thinking about this film may make you happy.