Walking on Thin Ice

On the set of "Red Knot"

“Olivia and Vincent met when they got on the boat as a couple. Guests on the boat actually thought they were a couple for quite some time. We put them in adjoining rooms and they shared the same bathroom, so they really got to know each other until the story started going a different direction and then they really did start being more separate from one another.”

In 2010, the photographer Scott Cohen had dinner with his friend, the filmmaker Gregory Colbert, who had recently chartered a boat to Antarctica and was planning to invite friends and fellow creative types, such as the writer Cormac McCarthy, the actress Juliette Binoche, and scientist Dr. Roger Payne, to come along for the ride. Colbert had extra room on the boat, which was leaving in two months. “He said, ‘Pack your bags. We’re going to Antarctica!” Cohen recalls. “I had been thinking of making a fictional film, but didn’t have a clear idea at that moment. I spent the weekend thinking about it and talking about it with my wife, and wrote a first draft of a treatment of what I thought would happen.” The final product, the ambient 81-minute-long film Red Knot, which began filming two months later and took three years of post-production to bring to fruition, tells the story of Peter (Vincent Kartheiser) and Chloe Harrison (Olivia Thirlby), newlyweds who go on a research trip to Antarctica in lieu of a honeymoon. Shortly after boarding in Southern Argentina, their relationship takes a rocky turn. ”The idea was to show a young couple figuring out how to relate—or not relate—at the beginning of a relationship,” explains Cohen, “Even though they were married, their marriage really began when they got on the boat.”

Red Knot is now open at the IFC Center in New York.