Becoming Animal at Solothurner Filmtage 2019
Happy new year! Becoming Animal will be presented at the 2019 Solothurner Filmtage, Switzerland, on January 26th and 30th.
Peter Mettler to be inducted into Ryerson’s “IMA Visionaries” Wall of Fame
On November 15, 2018, Peter Mettler will be inducted as one of five initial recipients into Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts Wall of Fame, presented at the annual Image Arts Award Night.
The other recipients of this award are Stephen Bulger (Stephen Bulger Gallery), Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes, Anthropocene), Pia Di Ciaula (The Crown), and Jeremy Podeswa (The Five Senses, Game Of Thrones).
From IMA’s website: “Peter Mettler (Image Arts ’82) holds a unique position for his innovation within the realm of documentary film, and merging cinema with other disciplines. His films include Gambling Gods & LSD, Petropolis, The End of Time, and Picture Of Light which was recently selected by TIFF as one of Canada’s Essential 150 Canadian Films.”
Many upcoming Becoming Animal festival screenings for Fall 2018!
Becoming Animal continues its tour this fall, with the following festival screenings…
Duisberger Filmwoche - November 8th. Peter Mettler in attendance!
Recontres International du Documentaire de Montréal (RIDM), Montréal, Canada - November 11th & 14th. Peter Mettler in attendance!
International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands - November 15th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 24th. Dutch Premiere with Peter Mettler and Emma Davie in attendance!
Becoming Animal distribution announcements for UK and Canada
We are excited to announce Becoming Animal will be distributed theatrically in the UK this fall, via Scottish Documentary Institute. We are also excited to announce a spring release of the film in Canada – more news on that come soon!
And if you live elsewhere, don’t fret! Contact your favourite independent cinema today and tell them that you’d love to see Becoming Animal on the big screen in 2019! These sorts of actions are significant in helping to further the presence of the film and its message worldwide.
FilmExplorer interviews Peter about Becoming Animal
"The result is a cinematic experience that is both intellectual and sensual; Although in their density at times somewhat overwhelmed, but something succeeds, which is extremely rare in the cinema: literally and not just temporarily change your own perception. [...] Perception is, at least in "nature", always a reciprocal process in which man is only a small part of a huge network, to which animals, plants and also "inanimate" objects belonged like stones. Thus, Abram creates a kind of modern animism - after all, the very first of all religions, created in pre-linguistic times - that Mettler and Davie succeed in translating into cinematic language.”
“It is almost impossible to think without relying on a specific human perception. To empathize with those of other living beings who have neither self-confidence nor language-based thought processes is an imponderable, an imponderable, without at least a temporary modification of their own perception - whether through meditation, drugs or other techniques. In Becoming Animal, however, Peter Mettler and Emma Davie, together with philosopher David Abram, are now considering precisely this: the different connections and differences in perception between man and nature. Knowing Peter Mettler's earlier films, it is not surprising that this consideration is not (alone) through language - which, as David Abram points out in the film, one of the main barriers in this regard - but takes place through a cinematic form whose purpose is to find a purely cinematic equivalent of the theses of Abram. The result is a cinematic experience that is both intellectual and sensual; Although in their density at times somewhat overwhelmed, but something succeeds, which is extremely rare in the cinema: literally and not just temporarily change your own perception.
“Perhaps surprisingly, Becoming Animal is structured in a straightforward manner. Compared to Mettler's somewhat sprawling works Gambling, Gods and LSD or The End of Time, for example, this film deals with its themes in a rather neat arrangement: from human perception itself and its differences to an original, non-linguistic one Feeling about the origins of music in animal sounds and those of writing in the "Calligraphy of the Rivers", the cave scrawls and hieroglyphs to the nature of the human mind in its function as self-consciousness of nature. As millennia ago, as the script gradually began to take on its abstract character by merely symbolically referring to certain phonetic sounds, the associations with the source of the words, which in earlier writing systems, for example, directly disappeared due to their indexical function something specific directed. The remnants of a closer connection between language and designated natural object can today only be found in loud-language words, often in connection with the water: rushing, flowing, trickling, splashing, etc. That the development of the human mind is a one-way street that no one can go back to the beginning (and usually does not want to) - no matter whether one understands by this beginning the human primeval or the prelinguistic childhood - does not change that original connection between man and nature as before is present and often becomes visible where theory, civilization and language are irrelevant: in direct contact with nature.
“The fact that this separation between the concepts of man and nature is a bit absurd is clear from the very beginning when Abram states: "Nature is a tricky word: one that separates us from it." Mettler and Davie prove this with beautiful pictures, such as when they accompany Abram to Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming, where, in the act of touching an old tree, he realizes that perception is a mutual one. Not only can he, Abrams, perceive the changeable structure of the tree bark with his sense of touch, but the tree also senses the presence and the touch of his hand in his own way through chemical processes. Perception, at least in "nature", is always a reciprocal process in which man is only a small part of a huge network that includes animals, plants and also "inanimate" objects like stones. Thus, Abram creates a kind of modern animism - after all, the very first of all religions, created in pre-linguistic times - that Mettler and Davie succeed in translating into cinematic language. The principle "everything is expressive" seeks, as far as possible, to design a cinema that is no longer subject to the anthropomorphic gaze - the human gaze. In the image and sound design, this is expressed in a simultaneous intensification and abstraction: blurred camera shots through lush nature, accompanied by organic-sounding electronic sounds, Arvo Pärt chorales and a background noise, in which there is a completely different hierarchy of meaning than in the narrative or even in traditional documentary cinema, which usually wants to produce above all meaning.
“And if Becoming Animal is certainly not meaningless - the words of Abram are too weighty for that - the combination of its theses with a way in which a less human perception might look like is a kind of gateway into a world, in which the human gaze is no longer the sole valid one. The limits of this endeavor are not just those of the medium, but of human perception itself. Becoming Animal is a film essay, an attempt to step into a world that usually shuts off that perception. As such a first step Becoming Animal has been completely successful. Although you can not see the film directly, the cutting process took a whole year, but you feel it, somehow. Especially as the limits of the medium can be experienced - in his distorted by digital noise image night shots, in the instances of motion blur, or in a surprising sequence in which we the flight of an eagle not quite from his perspective, but from a strapped him on the back GoPro Camera - we get a glimpse of the blurred boundaries of human perception. These are small moments of the real that pass us by. The metaphor is deliberately chosen as Becoming Animal, in its concluding thought-movement, speaks to the human mind itself, which has always been associated with the wind: fleeting, immaterial, invisible - yet determining everything. As the wind in nature is responsible for carrying the pollen from one place to another, thus enabling that infinitely complex system of life on earth in the first place, the human spirit is capable of doing so through its similarly complex network from neurons to perceive this nature first. And because the separation between man and nature is only a somewhat arrogant imagination, one can come to the conclusion that this human being is little more than a means of nature to perceive oneself - a reflection of nature to a certain extent. This means nothing less than that in the moment when a human being looks at Becoming Animal on the big screen - presumably another mirror - the possibilities, as in Mise en abyme in the Hall of Mirrors, are endless.”
– Text by Dominic Schmid, originally published June 8, 2018. Translated from German, original version available here.
“Becoming Animal heisst der neue Essayfilm des schweizerisch-kanadischen Regisseurs Peter Mettler. Darin denkt er nicht nur – zusammen mit dem Philosophen David Abrams über das Verhältnis Mensch-Tier nach, er lässt die Zuschauer sogar dank Mini-Kamera mit den Augen eines Raben die Welt sehen.”
Peter Mettler Retrospective at Kino Xenix, Zürich
This November, Kino Xenix presents a retrospective of Peter Mettler’s films, including Eastern Avenue (1985), Balifilm (1997), Picture Of Light (1994), The Top Of His Head (1989), Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002), Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (2009), The End Of Time (2012), Becoming Animal (2018), The Sound of Insects – Record of a Mummy (2009, dir. Peter Liechti), Broken Land (2014, directed by Stéphanie Barbey and Luc Peter), and the live performance document YoshtoYoshto (2017), in collaboration with Jeremy Narby and Franz Treichler.
"You cannot ask for more from the cinema than Peter Mettler offers. Overwhelmed by his films, spellbound in a comprehensive sensual experience that one can describe only inadequately. Similar to that concert, that journey, that landscape, that animal or human encounter that overwhelms, takes hold of; 'I was blown away', it is said, almost apologetically, because the words are missing in order to make the person's own experience halfway understandable. But «hin und weg» ('back and forth') is a beautiful expression in German, to describe the perception in the moment, since you were present in full consciousness carried away and yet absent-mindedly stepped away, divining that the subconscious plays along.
"In Peter Mettler's films, it can happen that you drift off in a kind of trance, get stuck in a cloudscape, a techno party or in a lava flow, and come to your own memories and dreams come to mind. The filmmaker is well aware of this drifting away and daydreaming of the audience – sometimes he calls with a fine break fresh attention. Respectfully he insists on the artificiality of the cinema situation, which can never replace an immediate experience of nature: 'Are you cold yet?', he asks us viewers, while in PICTURE OF LIGHT (1994) we wait for the northern lights in the cold of the Canadian Arctic. In almost all of his works, from the early short films to the terrific film essays GAMBLING, GODS AND LSD (2002) or THE END OF TIME (2012), there are moments such as an ironic finger snap of God (who is known to be a director or DJ) in a state of complete rapture and ecstasy.
"Mettler's films offer more than can generally be expected in the cinema: no escapism and numbness of the senses, but a formidable school of perception, associative visions and ideas for a sharpened awareness, encouragement for an open mind. Mettler does not conceive of himself as an omniscient author and narrator, but more as a constantly searching traveler, as an intuitive mediator, as a medium or filter, walking through the world with his camera, 'as if I were a musical instrument,' as he once said: 'Tuning is thematically oriented, based on an idea or a feeling.' Consequently, he understands the cutting of the collected material visually and acoustically as a kind of composing music: Instead of linearly telling a story, his films are meant to break conceptual thinking and create moods that lie beyond rational and linguistically namable truths. 'Movies are my way of interacting with the world and trying to understand them,' he says. Always trying to get on the track of the indescribable, the incomprehensible.
"Mettlerism, Mettlerama or Mettlervision has already been referred to as Peter Mettler's style, predicates for a cinematic universe reserved for the very big ones in world cinema – see 'Lynchesque' or 'Lynchean' in the case of David Lynch. The eerie intermediate worlds full of dark intuitions in which Lynch's films play have been explored by Mettler himself in his early fiction films: in THE TOP OF HIS HEAD (1989), for example, he has a young satellite antenna salesman derailed by a mysterious performance artist and discover new worlds on a hallucinatory journey. The disturbing and bewitching film with the music of Fred Frith allows an idea of what the Canadian-Swiss artist, raised in a suburban airport near Toronto, would probably do for feature films today. But unlike fellow filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan or Jeremy Podeswa, Mettler turned away from feature films and the commercial demands of the film industry, focusing instead on a radically free form of 'poetic documentarism' beyond labels.
"His network has always expanded Mettler's scope, through friendships with filmmakers and musicians, but also with anthropologists, philosophers and researchers of many kinds. Collaborations in his works are not the exception, but the rule. The latest team effort is BECOMING ANIMAL, an intoxicatingly coherent reflection on the relationship between humans and animals, technology and nature, which he realized with Scottish filmmaker Emma Davie and American environmental researcher David Abram. At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, they are approaching the unfathomable communications network of animals, plants, rocks, and other elements of the biosphere, whose interaction we humans only have the slightest idea about - a phenomenal expansion of consciousness.
"'Watching Peter Mettler' is a stroke of luck just in time for the filmmaker's sixtieth birthday. The program includes not only his congenial cooperation with the meteorologist and photographer Andreas Züst, but fortunately also the last work with another longtime, deceased Swiss friend: Peter Liechti, whose apartment in the Atelierhaus Birli took over Mettler in the appenzellian forest as a European second home. In Liechti's masterpiece THE SOUND OF INSECTS, Mettler speaks with his unmistakably gentle voice the diary of the man who starves to death in a forest hut. The ultimately life-affirming cinematic near-death experience breathes, to the buzz of insects, the spirit of Mettler's cinema vision of 'beyond' - the meaningful English word means beyond and beyond, but also beyond and beyond. Or as a kind of calendar, saying: who embraces life in all its apparitions, death never needs to fear. Mettler's fluid delimitation of the film form was a cause for concern, once wrote the film critic Martin Schaub. Mettler knows this best himself and therefore recommends the audience to relax: 'Just relax, listen, look and see.' That remains valid – continue."
– Marcel Elsener (Translated from German, original version available here).
Manufactured Landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Manufactured Landscapes (2006, dir. Jennifer Baichwal, cinematography by Peter Mettler) will be presented at The Art Gallery of Ontario in conjunction with the Anthropocene exhibition by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier.
Manufactured Landscapes is a feature documentary that follows renowned artist Edward Burtynsky as he travels through China photographing the evidence and effects of that country's massive industrial revolution. The Three Gorges Dam, factory floors a kilometre long and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai's urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera. Shot in Super-16mm film, the documentary extends the narratives of Burtynsky's photographs, meditating on human impact on the planet without trying to reach simplistic judgements or reductive resolutions. In the process, it shifts our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it.
Peter Mettler Retrospective at Tribute to a Vision, Italy/Slovenia
From October 15–22, Kinotelje Festival will be hosting Tribute To A Vision 2018, featuring a complete retrospective of the films of Peter Mettler in conjunction with the Darko Bratina Award. This event spans multiple cities across the border of Italy and Slovenia, and includes a master class presentation and live performance.
Peter Mettler Masterclass at Tribute to a Vision 2018
Peter Mettler gave a masterclass at Tribute to a Vision 2018, in advance of receiving the Darko Bratina Award. View the complete livestream here:
“Peter Mettler: Radicalized Cineasta (Insomnia, A Terrorist)”
Text by Denis Valič on Peter Mettler’s films
Commissioned for Tribute To A Vision Festival 2018. Translated from Italian; original version in Italian and Slovenian available here.
I would venture to say that Peter Mettler is one of those filmmakers who for one or the other reason really know many (at least by hearsay): whether for his valid reflections on contemporary society and on the obsessions of the same, or for the his continuous analysis of the role that technology plays in the creative process and in many aspects of our life; that both for his witty and discerning mix and intertwine his own cinematographic creative process with other artistic disciplines and means of expression, or simply for the numerous well-known artists with whom he collaborated (from the musician Fred Frith to the theatrical authority Robert Lapage ), or, why not, perhaps for its almost bizarre obsession with science and the fundamental questions that it opens up, or simply because Mettler is a unique and deeply unconventional cinematographic author. However, at the same time, very few understand it.
In almost four decades of his film career he has in fact generated a wildly varied and surprisingly multiform production, without neglecting the fact that it is also quantitatively impressive. The unity of his works, at first sight perhaps not so directly (and certainly not intuitively) perceptible, we realize only by looking at his filmography in the light of his crucial decision and turning point: that of continuing to work, for the whole his career and without exception, outside the institutional production environments, in the name of complete creative freedom. Mettler has therefore consciously embraced the greater difficulty, unpredictability and commitment required by these production conditions. And it is considering this that, turning once again to the totality of his creations, we will suddenly see what we would not expect from certain facts and behaviors: we will be amazed by the creative continuity of Mettler despite its production conditions being not the most encouraging, and its almost workaholic efficiency in realizing and realizing its ideas and visions. It is therefore evident that in his creative process the conditions of production do not even remotely have the decisive role they play in the works of other authors, who are not so abandoned to themselves. So it is not surprising that Mettler has refused them so easily and apparently without delay. It is therefore a "loss" that Mettler evidently has not even warned, which has granted him a single but fundamental key element and allowed him to reach the one that without difficulty we recognize as the only - absolutely not negligible - condition of his process creative, that is to say, working on the conditions and in the spirit of total creative freedom which is precisely the absence of any external pretension, expectation or imperative, as well as the exclusion of the figures which, in the context of institutional production, constantly accompany creation; possible.
The direct and indirect consequences of this choice of the author, or rather of this almost obvious position that allows him to work in complete freedom from the creative point of view, pervade all his production and each of his creations, each plan and each phase of the his creative process, and finally also numerous aspects of his intimate relationship with his films, as well as his reflections on cinematography and its expressive means. These consequences are manifested in all their power and drama, for example, already on the level of the formal setting of his works. So the viewer who is about to know his films will seem at first glance (with that very first look still superficial and too "far") to categorize them in two defined sense groups, simply subdividing them into documentaries and fiction films. Well, these would understand very soon - to a slightly more careful observation - how unexpectedly the size of their error is. Each work by Mettler is in fact markedly or barely perceptible, but still distinguishable - different from the others. But we are concrete and immerse ourselves in the bulk of his works. We will find more or less classical documentaries (Picture of Light / Image of light) but also extremely experimental (Petropolis), experiments in fiction features that, in dealing with the problem of heroin addiction, ask questions about the nature and levels of perception, on our individual and social identity, and on the probable appearance of consciousness in that technology that allows us to tell through images (his first feature film Scissere - passed to history as the first student film to be included in the official program of the Toronto festival ), particular adaptations of theatrical works completely freed from the constraints of the form, in which it represents and reflects on the dramatic conflict between history, culture and human desires (Tectonic Plates), documentaries with socio-political inclinations, almost activistic, on current problems ecological (still Petropolis), and finally we find still ope These are hardly classifiable in which they are explored hardcore philosophical questions originating from the intersection of the animal world with the human one (Becoming Animal / Becoming Animal, to date his latest work).
Until a few days ago I thought I was a fairly good Mettler connoisseur. But then I began, slowly and gradually but continuously, with each new approach to the work, to discover dark areas, incredibly numerous, behind which hides aspects of his creativity completely unknown to me, and to notice ever more clearly that so far I was only bluffing more or less well. And now I find myself confused in front of this profound precipice that is its production, and I wonder if it still makes sense to invent and develop strategies of discovery in front of this collection of filmic images, stories and reflections, unconventional, sometimes extreme , but always bright. In fact, this escapes in a spontaneous and clear manner, in body and soul, to any categorization and systematization, which seems almost more sensible and practical to simply be transported by it. Peter Mettler was born in Canada - where he is considered (together with colleagues and collaborators A. Egoyan, B. McDonald and others) among the most important and original representatives of the movement, which originated in Ontario in the eighties, of new, so-called critics, filmmakers Canadians - but, as he himself always remembers, he feels a strong creative bond with his second homeland, Switzerland, where his parents were born (and here we add that both nations are strongly determined to take possession of it: it is not clear if lend themselves to each other or if one of them has appropriated his heart, the other of his vivacious neurons). The author creates, dividing himself between two houses and two homelands, and therefore he has made the necessity of confronting with borders and subdivisions virtues: he has placed it at the center of his own intimate creative world and has made his mission to go beyond borders. at the same time their own creative creed. He is awarded the Darko Bratina Award 2018. The filmmaker will be the main protagonist of this year's edition of the Poklon viziji / Homage to a vision, and between October 15 and 22 will present his works in seven cities cross-border area between Slovenia and Italy, including also Ljubljana. While on Tuesday 16 October in Gorizia, Mettler will conduct a daily masterclass at the Palazzo del Cinema (to find out more: kinoatelje.it). If you are enthusiastic about and challenge the challenge of diversity and creativity, based on the awareness of the need to overcome any and all limits, boundaries or divisions, do not miss the meeting with Mettler.
Peter Mettler’s films now available on Vimeo On Demand!
Peter Mettler’s films are now available for streaming rental or purchase through Vimeo On Demand.
View everything from the early short poetic features Scissere (1982) and Eastern Avenue (1985), the experimental dramas The Top Of His Head (1989) and Tectonic Plates (1992), and the epic documentaries Picture of Light (1994), Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002), Petropolis (2009), and The End of Time (2012). All available in HD, with newly remastered image restorations of Picture of Light and Gambling, Gods and LSD.
Upcoming screenings of Becoming Animal for Fall 2018
Becoming Animal continues its festival tour! Co-director Emma Davie will be present at the following upcoming screenings, marking the film’s North American premiere:
Becoming Animal also begins a multi-city theatrical exhibition in Switzerland in October, distributed via Outside the Box. Peter Mettler will be in attendance at the following screenings, which will be accompanied by a Q&A:
October 24th – RiffRaff, Zürich
October 25th – Rex Bern
October 26th – Cameo Winterthur
October 27th – Kinok, St.Gallen
October 28th – Bourbaki, Lucerne
November 1st – Stadtkino, Basel
Tribute to a Vision: Peter Mettler at Kinoatelje Film Festival 2018
This fall Peter will be honoured with a series of retrospective screenings as part of "Tribute to a Vision" (Omaggio a una visione; Poklon vizji) at Kinoatelje Film Festival. Hosted in various locations in Italy and Slovenia, the event will take place in October 2018 and include screenings of many of Mettler's films, including the new restorations of Picture of Light and Gambling, Gods and LSD, as well as his most recent film, Becoming Animal.
October 15, Palazzo del cinema, Gorizia – screening and discussion, Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002)
October 16, Palazzo del cinema, Gorizia – Masterclass and award ceremony with Peter Mettler, featuring screenings of The End of Time (2012), Broken Land (2014), and Becoming Animal (2018)
October 17, Kuturni dom, Nova Gorica – screenings and discussion, Picture of Light (1994), Lancalot Freely (1980), and Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (2009)
October 18, Cinema Visionario, Udine – screenings and discussion, Tectonic Plates (1992), Becoming Animal (2018)
October 19, ISK & SMO, San Pietro al Natisone – screening and discussion, Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (2009)
October 19, Teatro San Giorgio, Udine – Live image mixing performance by Peter Mettler, in collaboration with Forma Free Music Impulse and Contemporanea
October 20, Teatro Miela, Trieste – screening and discussion, Eastern Avenue (1985), Balifilm (1997)
October 21, Art kino Odeon, Izola – screening and discussion, The Top of His Head (1989)
October 22, Slovenska kinoteka, Ljubljana – screenings and discussion, Scissere (1982), Becoming Animal (2018)
Peter Mettler in person at MIDBO 2018, Bogotá
Peter Mettler will present multiple films at the 20th Muestra Internacional Docmental de Bogotá, in Columbia from October 3–6, 2018.
Schedule TBA soon!
Becoming Animal at Open City Docs, London
"In this immersive, visually inventive film, directors Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and Peter Mettler (The End of Time) journey into Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park with philosopher and cultural ecologist David Abram, searching for the liminal spaces where humans and animals meet. Challenging our human-centric view of the natural world, this subversive nature film uses cinema’s sensory tools to explore humanity’s relationship with the natural environment, proposing—through expressionistic visuals and stimulating narration—that a better balance can be achieved. An essay film unlike any other, Becoming Animal is an sublime sensorial experience and an inspiring, intellectual one too."
Becoming Animal at DokuFest, Prizren
Becoming Animal screens three times this August at DokuFest, Kosovo's premier documentary film festival. Details here!
Interview with José Teodoro in Brick: A Literary Journal
Peter Mettler is interviewed about the making of Picture of Light by Toronto-based author and playwright José Teodoro in the May 2018 issue of Brick: A Literary Journal. Read it online for free here!
"We didn’t know how to film the northern lights. We brought the gear, but we didn’t know how bright the lights were. [...] We’d shoot according to these hypotheses and then develop the images in the bathroom. You see a moment of that in the film, us landing on a ballpark figure for the exposure. I thought the process of getting the northern lights on film was interesting in its own right, though I didn’t yet know what the film was about..."
Peter Mettler in person at Doc Montevideo
Peter Mettler will attend Doc Montevideo in Uruguay (July 20-26, 2018) to present a selection of his films in person and conduct a master class.
Picture of Light at Maine International Film Festival
Sponsored by The Jenson Family
Aurora Borealis: The Northern Lights. We see them in Maine in winter—if we’re very lucky. But you see them more reliably and more spectacularly as you head north. So that’s what Canadian filmmaker Peter Mettler and his brave crew did to make Picture of Light, shown here in a new restoration so those lights haven’t faded. Mettler heads to to Canada’s arctic in search of one of Earth’s greatest natural wonders. While combining glimpses of the characters who live in this remote environment with the film crew’s comic and absurd attempts to deal with the extreme cold, the film reveals the paradoxes involved in trying to capture the spectacular light show of the Northern Lights on celluloid. But, non-spoiler alert: they do!
Reviews of Becoming Animal now online!
"Something actually new and full of life came in the form of freewheeling audiovisual essay Becoming Animal, a collaboration between Scottish filmmaker Emma Davie and Swiss-Canadian Peter Mettler. With input from philosopher David Abram and shot in one of North America’s most intact ecosystems, the film explores notions of animism and the effects of language on our perception of the natural world. Although a largely meditative experiment, some surprising late shifts in the cinematography, in which the camera appears strapped to one of the park’s flying residents, brought to mind the more visceral documentary Leviathan (2012). The soundscapes, in particular, make a big-screen viewing recommended."
"Mesmerising and immersive, Becoming Animal is an exercise in hypnotic induction, in which Davie, Mettler and Abram attempt to deconstruct psychological, linguistics and technological barriers in order to facilitate a meeting not of minds or souls but of kin. It’s one thing to record the natural world; it’s quite another to reconcile it."
"Thanks to Mettler and Davie for their 'fantastic naivety'... It serves not to lose consciousness, but to expand it... You have to see Becoming Animal in the cinema... Phenomenal and mind-expanding!"
"A cinematic experience that is both intellectual and sensual; although in its density at times somewhat overwhelming, something succeeds that is extremely rare in the cinema: it literally and not just temporarily changes your own perception. [...] Perception is, at least in 'nature', always a reciprocal process in which man is only a small part of a huge network, to which animals, plants and also 'inanimate' objects belong like stones. Abram creates a kind of modern animism – the very first of all religions, created in pre-linguistic times – that Mettler and Davie succeed in translating into cinematic language."
"Genuinely eye-opening... A fascinating, thought-provoking and pleasingly free-wheeling film." – Barry Didcock, Herald Scotland
Filmfest München presents Becoming Animal
German Premiere of Becoming Animal
July 30 - 20:00 - Atelier 2
July 1 - 15:30 - Münchner Freiheit 3
"A herd of elk cross the road, indifferent to the traffic jam they're creating. How do animals see people and how do people see animals, including the animals within themselves? Filmmakers Emma Davie and Peter Mettler travel with philosopher David Abram to Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming to search for the answers to these and other questions. Using the latest highly sensitive camera technology, they observe the animals – from snails to birds to, well, calmly wandering elk – living their lives."
For more info visit https://www.filmfest-muenchen.de/en/programm/filme/film/?id=5781.
Edinburgh International Film Festival presents Becoming Animal
UK Premiere of Becoming Animal
June 21 - 18:15 - Filmhouse 1
June 23 - 13:10 - VUE Omni
"Shot in Grand Teton National Park, this immersive essay film draws together the distinctive sensibilities of filmmakers Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and Peter Mettler (The End of Time) with philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous) to encounter the spaces where humans and animals meet. A subversive nature film in which our senses are piqued as we bear witness the so-called natural world, which, in turn, witnesses us." Tickets available at edfilmfest.org.uk
Bildrausch Filmfestival presents Becoming Animal
Swiss Premiere of Becoming Animal
June 2 - 13.45 - Stadtkino Basel
June 3 - 17.20 - Stadtkino Basel
"Its antlers are stately, its gaze penetrating. There it stands and looks at us, the elk, in the middle of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, which is its home. It is a world where the creatures that infinitely enrich the region have precedence, and where we cautiously immerse ourselves – be it from a bird’s eye view, or very close-up, grasping the animals directly with our senses, like a snail that extends its tentacles to feel its surroundings. It is only in this way, the essay film by Emma Davie (I am Breathing) and Peter Mettler (The End of Time) declares, that we can establish relationships between what we are and what surrounds us: human beings and animals, space and time, body and intuition. Together with the philosopher and radical thinker David Abram, the Scottish documentary filmmaker and her Canadian-Swiss colleague embark on a fascinating sensory exploration of nature, using observations and reflections to bring the viewer back to the point where the mutual dependency and interaction between human and animal forces are once again made tangible. In close contact with buffaloes, ravens, hot springs and rustling forests, they reach amazing insights and perspectives about the here and now as well as about its many pre-histories." Directors in attendance, tickets available at https://goo.gl/1gdDCw
May 9 & 10 : Spanish Premiere of Becoming Animal
"Nature sees itself through our eyes," explains philosopher David Abram in this brilliant three-part essay. The captivating and almost tactile images get interrelated sensorially as the reflections get dispersed out, providing us insight into a philosophy in which intuition, phenomenology and a critique of anthropocentrism are the pillars of thought and life. (DV) documentamadrid.com
Directors in attendance!
May 12 - 20:30 - Iluzjon Cinema
Petter Mettler, director of Becoming Animal which will be shown during the festival, will join us with his Yoshtoyoshto project – a hypnotic show compromised of visuals, music and story told from the stage. It will be a type of live documentary, a genre which our audience had an occasion to experience during Sam Green’s performances. Mettler will be joined onstage by: Franz Treichler (from the Young Gods band) and Jeremy Narby (author of “The Cosmic Serpent”). Yoshtoyoshto is a collaborative project of a director, musician and anthropologist. They join forces to tell the audience the tale of Amazon Indian natural philosophy in a hypnotic improvisational display. For more info: docsag.pl
May 13, 16, 20 : Warsaw, Poland
May 14 : Wrocław, Poland
Shot in and around Grand Teton National Park, this immersive, palpably rendered audiovisual essay draws together the distinct sensibilities of filmmakers Peter Mettler (The End of Time) and Emma Davie (I am Breathing) and philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous) to forge a path into the places where humans and animals meet, where we pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world—which in turn witnesses us. Over a soundscape of shivering leaves and animal murmurs, rushing rivers and electronic voices, insects and automobiles, “Becoming Animal”embraces the sensory tools of cinema allowing us to behold inquisitive antelope and digital billboards; Buffalo block traffic while moose clash antlers and a snail’s body becomes a landscape of its own. Conscious of their own complicity with the animal world, the filmmakers invite us to explore this “more than human world”and recognize it for what it is: an exquisitely intricate system in which everything is alive and expressive, humans, animals and landscapes are inextricably interdependent, and there is no such thing as empty space. Tickets available at docsag.pl.
April 2 - 19:00 - The University of Chicago
Part of our Monday series, Beyond "Hollywood North": Contemporary Canadian Voices and Visions.
In the early 90s, director Mettler, Swiss meteorologist Andreas Zuest, and a tiny crew traveled to Churchill, Manitoba on an elusive and notoriously challenging quest to capture the famed Aurora Borealis on film. A mesmerizing, visually stunning portrait of a phenomenon so widely known yet experienced by so few, Picture of Light is a poetic work about technology and nature, the ephemeral, its representability, and the creation of images. docfilms.org
Yoshtoyoshto Live Performance at CPH:DOX
March 17 - 19:00 - Charlottenborg
Program Note: A filmmaker, a musician and an anthropologist merge images, sound and knowledge into an alchemistic live improvisation.
The filmmaker and old friend of CPH:DOX Peter Mettler is back at the festival with his film 'Becoming Animal'. But what's more, he is also performing live with the anthropologist Jeremy Narby and the musician Franz Treichler (the frontman of the legendary industrial band Young Gods). The three friends let their talents meet in an improvisational performance with hypnotic live VJing, trance-like soundscapes and spoken word. The name Yoshtoyoshto refers to the distorted and metaphorical language that the Amazon people Yaminahua sing when they try to contact yoshi – the invisible beings that according to their beliefs give life to all things living. By feeding off each other's presence and the material, sonic and oral impressions they leave on the space, the three gentlemen become the medium for an insight into the world's 'Unconscious'. Live performance tickets available online.
Gambling, Gods and LSD at CPH:DOX
March 18 - 15:15 - Charlottenborg / March 24 - 23:15 - Gloria
Program Note: One of the last fifteen years' most magnificent and visionary documentaries is a monument to ecstasy as a source of happiness - and new knowledge.
If you did not yet see Peter Mettler's masterpiece at the very first edition of CPH:DOX in 2003, you have the opportunity to do so this year, where we celebrate the world premiere of his and Emma Davies's 'Becoming Animal' with a special screening of the film that set new, visionary standards for documentary originality. 'Gambling, Gods and LSD' is about achieving happiness and a deeper insight through ecstasy. A picturesque cinematic travel journal from America via Europe to India. And from philosophy and religion via rave parties to a conversation with Albert Hofmann – the chemist who invented LSD. Mettler's journey around the world starts in his home town of Toronto with a Christian cult, which dances and sings its way into the ether, and ends with a visit to a laughter club in Mumbai. A happy ending? For Mettler, travelling is the journey's actual goal, and he has a highly unusual openness for accepting what comes his way. Three hours of thought-provoking grandeur, which in itself will lift your spirits, maybe even make you ecstatic – and certainly leaves you with new knowledge about the great, mad world we live in.
CPH:DOX presents Picture of Light
March 18 - 19:00 - Charlottenborg
In search of northern lights, in a beautiful and philosophical film from the end of the world, with music by Jim O'Rourke.
Since the dawn of time, Aurora Borealis – or just northern lights – have invited the imaginations among the few lucky people, who have had the opportunity to experience the phenomenon at first hand, to go rampant. And even though modern science today can explain what we see, the magic remains the same. 'Picture of Light' was one of the first films that actually immortalised the delicate waves of northern lights. Created during an expedition far out in the Canadian wilderness with an excentric meteorologist and a small film crew, where the journey – as always with Peter Mettler – is both an adventure in itself and a tribute to the freedom of thought. 'We live at a time when things don't seem to exist if they are not captured as an image. But if you look into darkness with your eyes closed, you can see the reflection of light on your retina – much like the flickering of northern lights, much like the movement of thought.' A magnum opus among the films that paved the way for the breakthrough of modern documentary filmmaking. Tickets available, director in attendance.
March 20 - 19:00 - Grand Teatret / March 22 - 10:00 - Cinemateket / March 24 - 17:00 - Gloria
Program Note: A visionary field trip to Wyoming's wild and vast nature becomes a philosophical reevaluation of our relationship with the world that surrounds us.
By examining the relationship between man and the other species we share the planet with, we have opened up new ways to understand our place in the world. 'Becoming Animal' is an attempt to give some of these new ways of thinking a cinematic form. An essay based on a 'field trip' to Wyoming's wild nature, in the company of the bio-philosopher David Abram and the two visionary filmmakers Emma Davie and Peter Mettler. And with an abundance of bison, moose and birds. Both form and thought are unchained in a film that ends up moving (far) beyond man's self-centred view of nature, and into a state of almost psychedelic receptiveness. As Mettler asks: are language and modern technology a barrier or an open door between us and the world that surrounds us? And what about the film medium itself? Throughout his many years as a filmmaker, Mettler has dealt with abstract phenomena such as northern lights, ecstasy and time itself, and with Davie and Abram as travelling companions, 'Becoming Animal' (which is named after Abram's landmark book) is a film that makes you see things with slightly different eyes. Tickets available, directors in attendance.
CPH:DOX Masterclass: Peter Mettler
March 23 - 10:30 - Cinemateket
Program Note: In the hands of the Canadian filmmaker Peter Mettler, abstract topics such as northern lights, time, ecstasy and most recently the relationship between human beings and animals turn into inspiring philosophical opuses, which push the film medium to its utmost limits and look like nothing else. And on top of it all, he's a really nice guy! Meet him for a master class on using the film medium's special qualities as the basis for new knowledge and artistic explorations. The brand new 'Becoming Animal' (co-directed by Emma Davie) is premiered at this year's festival. And on top of that, Mettler is this year's Artist in Focus in our Science programme, where we show two of his main works. Tickets available online.
“It’s that time again… 2017 is starting to unravel to make way for 2018. As usual we’ll be celebrating the first day of the year with style! Starting at 12 noon New Year's Day and continuing straight through into the evening again, our stellar line-up of DJs and VJs represents the most dedicated of Architechs through the years, all more than ready to keep the party vibe going … and going … This is your one stop destination for all-day-long after party shenanigans!! Visuals by Peter Mettler and crew.”