‘IT’S like watching a very slow movie."
The comment comes from a resident of a volcanic Hawaiian island that is slowly, slowly, slowly having its pristine forests covered with volcanic rock over a period of decades.
The observation could apply equally to the trippy, contemplative filmmaking style of Canadian documentarian Peter Mettler, whose previous films include Gambling, Gods and LSD and Picture of Light, the latter a study of the northern lights shot in Churchill.
The End of Time offers up its thesis in the title, which does not refer to the temporal endpoint oft referenced in love songs, but a reconsideration of time as an illusory, man-made construct.
It starts literally with a jumping-off point 31 kilometres above the surface of the earth. That is where proto-astronaut/air force colonel Joseph Kittinger jumped from a helium balloon in 1960, an event captured in old but dizzying film footage. In the midst of that astonishing plunge, Kittinger observed, in the absence of any of the usual reference points of the physical world, time seemed to stand still.
Mettler further explores perceptions of time but in a desultory, impressionistic journey that takes him to the famed particle accelerator in Cern, Switzerland, the decaying city of Detroit, that aforementioned Hawaiian island where Mettler indulges in lovingly-lensed lava porn. Mettler trains his cameras on sensuously bulbous rock formations for such extended periods of time, they start to resemble a pile of prostrate bodies... an orgy of the dead.
Often, The End of Time qualifies as a very beautiful film. Mettler has a knack for wringing visual beauty from the most unexpected places... even Detroit.
One wishes Mettler devoted more attention to some kind of narrative coherence and less attention to assembling a series of images calculated merely to blow viewers' minds.
It comes off as lazy filmmaking, at least to a guy whose notion of time is tragically chained to the reality of deadlines.