Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night film of the Imagine Science Film Festival. The lucky filmmaker to grace the screen at the Museum of the Moving Image was none other than Peter Mettler and his film THE END OF TIME. Peter’s film is an experimental work that explores the concept of time in a way that might make movie going audiences uncomfortable if they come in with typical expectations. The work explores a perspective that in itself seems to manipulate time, in that, at moments we feel like time has either sped up or slowed down (not to be confused with a movie dragging at parts or at other times picking up pace, to understand this element you’d probably have to view the film for yourself). Moment to moment, we shift and squirm almost as if we’re being manipulated, or the space around us is being changed in some way and that we have to alter our own consciousness to adapt. We’re fed marvelous imagery as we hear quotes from some of the featured characters that stimulate our respective imaginations, that test our mental resolve. We explore the worlds of these characters – real life people like scientists working at CERN or the astonomers at the Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. Peter’s subjects aren’t limited to the scientific elite, he also explores the lives of a young family that, at the time of his filming, are renovating a home in a derelict neighborhood in the outskirts of Detroit. He explores the neighborhood of a man who lives within steps of on-going volcanic lava flow. From the Hadron Collider in Switzerland to the slums of Detroit and quaint (but sort of dangerous) world of a volcanic Pacific – Peter manages to unite all these different worlds, cultures, backgrounds and the subject’s thoughts into his exploration of time.
There were moments that stood out to me, some in the form of lines of dialog but mostly in plain imagery. Time lapse imagery of the Hawaii Observatory at night – while in operation – really blew me away. Line after line of haiku-like statements, strung together to plant the seed of Peter’s own ideas, convincing us that these are our own. Ideas like “If you have a beginning, then you always have a problem” was my favorite line (and apparently the director’s favorite as well). “In reality there is no such thing as time by itself” and the idea that “We still operate on the level of Past, Present & Future” helps us understand that Time isn’t a thing, but an idea and not much more, albeit an idea that rules our lives. He even comforts us with facts about human evolution, stating that by the time the sun burns out, the beings that will be around to witness the event will be as far from us as we are from bacteria today. I haven’t slept so good in years.
The film would have been incomplete without a Q&A session with the director – and I’m happy he had flown in for the screening because his views on the film, the story behind the film, are all important to understanding the work. I’ve been attending experimental film screenings at the Anthology Film Archives for a long time now and the one thing I can attest to about this art form is that while it can stand on its own legs with or without a trained audience, it’s so much better to be able to talk with the creator about the work.
IMAGINE SCIENCE FILMS: The Imagine Science Film Festival is in their fifth year and is intended to bridge the gap between science and art by featuring films that feature scientific themes in a unique way. This includes documentary, experimental/avant-garde cinema, narrative fiction (like sci-fi yehehe)… basically an infinitesimal collection of styles. The festival will run from November 8 through the 16th at various venues throughout New York City. For screening & other events that are a part of this film festival, I urge you to visit their website: http://www.imaginesciencefilms.org/