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Antarctica: Ice and Sky


Discoveries Under the Ice

Genre: Documentary Foreign
MPAA Rating: unrated
Runtime: 89 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Luc Jacquet
Cast: Claude Lorius, Michel Papineschi, Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Review by Jean Lowerison

Glaciologist Claude Lorius found his life’s work in 1955 when he signed on for a scientific expedition to Antarctica as part of the International Geophysical Year. He would spend a winter with two companions in what he describes as “more a rabbit hole than a base” (it looks like an ice cave), where temperatures dove to minus 18 Celsius in the cabin, and warm water was only available if they heated some ice.


Lorius was so fascinated that he returned to Antarctica 22 more times, filming and doing experiments each time.

Interestingly, the Oscar-winning filmmaker Luc Jacquet (March of the Penguins) made a similar odyssey 40 years later. So when they met at the French Geographical Institute in 2011 – and Lorius suggested a film – Jacquet jumped at the chance.

Though the charming Lorius (now 80-plus) is in most of these scenes, he does not narrate. That job is given to actor Michel Papineschi.

In Antarctica: Ice and Sky, the world can see through archival and contemporary footage not only the story of Lorius’ expeditions and what scientific research shows about climate change, but what the scientists went through to gather this information. (No, they didn’t do it for the money.)

Interior temperatures were bad enough, but Jacquet (an ecologist by training) notes that in his 14 months there, he learned that in an Antarctic blizzard, the only law is staying alive.

Lorius, Jacquet

Lorius developed an ice corer that could retrieve ice thousands of meters underground; meaning hundreds of thousands of years old. He discovered that all ice contains air from the era in which it was formed. “Ice is a veritable natural planetary clock,” he said. Comparisons of ice from hundreds of years ago with contemporary ice cubes show unmistakable evidence that the air has warmed in the last century, and that man’s carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to this change.

The last few minutes of the film are a plea for action on climate change. But even if one doesn’t care about this, the film demands to be seen for its gorgeous (and sometimes frightening) images shot on a variety of equipment from 16mm to digital; some shot from a drone, and also for its depiction of scientists in action.

Recommended audience: Lovers of beautiful cinematography and those interested in climate change and the scientific process

Recommended Audience:
Lovers of beautiful cinematography and those interested in climate change and the scientific process