Directed by Peter Mettler. STC. 114 min. Opens Dec. 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
A Swiss-Canadian filmmaker and cinematographer who’s been a vital figure in the Toronto scene since emerging in the same ’80s wave as Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, and Bruce McDonald, Peter Mettler has never been one to shy away from quests. For his 1994 doc Picture of Light, he travelled deep into northern Manitoba to capture unparalleled views of the Northern Lights. To make 2009’s Petropolis, he took to the skies over Alberta’s tar sands and documented the eerie new topography of the once-natural terrain.
Like 2002’s similarly expansive Gambling, Gods and LSD, The End of Time sees Mettler visiting a variety of fascinating and highly photogenic sites in hopes of sussing out some big thoughts on a big topic. The subject is nothing less than time itself, though Mettler has the good sense to break it down into some slightly more manageable subtopics, like what the smashing of protons in a Large Hadron Collider near Geneva tells us about the Big Bang, or how one Hawaiian home owner contends with the ongoing geological evolution of a pesky volcano. Dazzling footage of a live musical performance by DJ/producer Richie Hawtin also figures in a segment on decay, renewal, and transformation in post-industrial Detroit.
At once more accessible than many of its predecessors and the trippiest of them all, The End of Time explores an impressive array of ideas related to humankind’s relationship with time. Better yet, it does so while providing an uncommonly intense degree of audiovisual stimulation—leave it to Mettler to make lava flows seem impossibly sexy. Only the most portentous moments of the director’s largely unnecessary narration can harsh the intellectual buzz that comes with the chance to ponder the many imponderables at hand.