Peter Mettler’s profoundly breathtaking documentary The End of Time examines our place in time, our relationship with it and how it relentlessly forges our world. It’s an intriguing idea that Mettler travelled the world to research - a Hindu temple, the erupting volcanos of Hawaii, a particle accelerant lab in the Swiss mountains and the ruined inner city of Detroit, and finally the Toronto home of his ageing mother. It is the third in Metter’s uniquely extraordinary trilogy that includes Picture of Light (1996) and Gambling, Gods & LSD (2002).
AB - I remember being completely mesmerised by Gambling, Gods and LSD, but that was a long time ago. Why do you make so few of your own features?
PM - I guess these things take time. Coming out of Gambling, Gods and LSD took a while. It was a long project and then I dabbled in other things like the National Parks (The National Parks Project: Gros Morne, 2009), and Manufactured Landscapes and I did some exhibition type work and live performance with mixing images and designing software for that, so that was a big part of time. And then there was this film.The End of Time is so immersive, it feels like thinking and experiencing a film, not watching one.
The film’s not using a traditional structure or rhythm that we come to expect watching films. It plays with that and takes it apart and you’re left suspended outside an anticipation of structure. You’re left with your thoughts.
What crosses your mind first, the theme and idea or the pictures?These films, including Gambling, Gods & LSD and Picture of Light are not made in traditional way, with a script or blueprint ahead of time. Rather they’re explorations around ideas and I choose a set of locations to go to explore and discover. The images I find along the way are more responsive to that approach. I find things and they resonate with me, I film and edit and juxtapose them and then add more. It’s not a structure in the familiar sense, it’s more true to how we experience things fragmentation and we tend to associate things make references and string things together through association. Life tends not to unfold with a neat clean structure.
The rhythms of the film are incredibly seductive, mirroring the way our bodies work.It is certainly visceral but I never thought of it consciously. But its true it has more to do with perception and how we perceive things than it does trying to be objective as a way of looking at things. It’s more related to body and psyche.
You show us things we may not otherwise see, like the churning, volcanic crust of Hawaii from the point of view of a hermit who lives in it.To show people what’s out there, I like that idea. John Pearse was on a film festival board and he wanted to show films that allowed people to discover things about the world they didn’t know. On one level that’s really worthwhile. Documentary simply shows you stuff that’s there. I’d like to combine it with experience and meditational process. It’s what people do. You have your subjective things you think of, especially taken out of high paced to look at something as fantastic. You have to be careful wind to my back blowing heat away the wind would burn.
Your films are persuasive, you should do propaganda films!
I sort of made one. Petropolis propaganda neutral and fly over the Alberta tar sands looking at it (Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands, 2009) but the argument becomes self-seeing.
What’s next?I’m torn. Part of me wants to continue this kind of process. There’s nothing like it, but it’s very hard to survive making work like that. It takes a long time to raise that much money and then throughout t. Part of me wants to keep doing it, and part of would like to tackle simpler subjects, not time. Something you don’t have to be a part of.