Nankyoku Monogatari, (lit. “South Pole Story”) is a 1983 Japanese film directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara and starring Ken Takakura. Its plot centers on the 1958 ill-fated Japanese scientific expedition to the South Pole, its dramatic rescue from the impossible weather conditions on the return journey, the relationship between the scientists and their loyal and hard-working Sakhalin huskies, particularly the lead dogs Taro and Jiro, and the fates of the 15 dogs left behind to fend for themselves.
The film was selected as the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 56th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee. It entered into the 34th Berlin International Film Festival, and at the Japan Academy Awards was nominated for the best film, cinematography, lighting, and music score, winning the Popularity award for the two dogs Taro and Jiro as most popular performer, as well the cinematography and reader’s choice award at the Mainichi Film Awards. It was a big cinema hit, and held Japan’s box office record for its homemade films until it was surpassed by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke in 1997.
The original electronic score was created by Greek composer Vangelis, who had recently written music for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. The soundtrack is available worldwide on CD-audio as Antarctica.
In February 1958, the Second Cross-Winter Expedition for the Japanese Antarctic Surveying Team rides on the icebreaker Soya to take over from the 11-man First Cross-Winter Expedition. The First Cross-Winter Expedition retreats by helicopter, leaving 15 Sakhalin huskies chained up at the Showa Base for the next Expedition. Due to the extreme weather conditions, Soya can not get near enough to the base and it is decided not to proceed with the handover, leaving the base unmanned. The team is worried about the dogs, as the weather is extremely cold and only one week of food for the dogs has been left. They wish to rescue them but in the end are unable to, due to a shortage of fuel and drinking water.
Eight of the fifteen sled dogs manage to break loose from their chains (Riki, Anko, Shiro, Jakku, Deri, Kuma, Taro, and Jiro), while the other seven starve. As the eight journey across the frozen wilderness, they are forced to survive on their own feces, on hunting penguins and seals on the ice shelves and even on eating seal excrement. As the months pass, most die or disappear. Riki is fatally injured by a killer whale while trying to protect Taro and Jiro, Anko and Deri fall through the ice and drown in the freezing waters, Shiro falls off a cliff to his death, and Jakku and Kuma disappear in the wilderness.
Eleven months later, on 14 January 1959, Kitagawa, one of the dog handlers in the first expedition, returns with the Third Cross-Winter Expedition, wanting to bury his beloved dogs. He, along with the two dog-handlers Ushioda and Ochi, recover the frozen corpses of the seven chained dogs, but are surprised to discover that eight others have broken loose. To everyone’s surprise, they are greeted warmly at the base by Taro and Jiro, brothers who were born in Antarctica.
It is still unknown how and why they survived because an average husky can only live in such conditions for about one month. In the movie, the director used the data available, together with his imagination, to reconstruct how the dogs struggled with the elements and survived.
6.78GB | 2h 23mn | 720×480 | mkv