Becoming Animal

a film by Emma Davie & Peter Mettler / Switzerland/UK / 2018 / 78 minutes

An inspired collaboration between filmmakers Emma Davie and Peter Mettler, Becoming Animal is a different kind of nature film, tracing how we sense the 'more than human' world and exploring how it also senses us. An immersive audiovisual quest, it traces a journey to the Grand Teton Park in North America with the influential American environmental philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous) to explore how the written word and technology has affected how we see. We pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world — which in turn witnesses us, prompting us to reflect on the very essence of what it means to inhabit our animal bodies.

“We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.” – David Abram

Becoming Animal traces a journey through Grand Teton Park in North America that challenges audiences to ask questions about how we see, hear and sense what is around us, in the places where humans and animals meet. Becoming Animal embraces the audio-visual sensory tools of cinema to trace how the written word and technology has affected how we see. We pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world —which in turn witnesses us, prompting us to reflect on the very essence of what it means to inhabit our animal bodies.

Shot in and around the Grand Teton National Park, with its dizzying diversity of wildlife, trails of curious humans in RVs and billion-year-old geology, Becoming Animal is a geyser of provocative ideas and heightened sensations related to the ubiquitous circuitry that connects us to our ever-shifting surroundings. A snail’s body becomes an immense landscape as the soundscape immerses us in shivering leaves, rushing rivers and the weird spacey pitch of elk calls at night. 

Driven by wonder, curiosity and a desire for balance between ecological and technological imperatives, Becoming Animal is an invitation to explore our relationship with 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 an empty space.


REVIEWS

“A magnificent documentary about the natural origins of what we consider to be man-made and the connection between man and nature… A thought-provoking, peculiar exploration of nature.”  – Ellen Lande, Modern Times Review

“Genuinely eye opening… a fascinating, thought-provoking and pleasingly free-wheeling film.” – Barry Didock, The Herald

"Something 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." – Josh Slater-Williams, Sight and Sound

“A sensitive cinematic translation of Abram’s thoughts on embodied sense perception and, in particular, that our seemingly-sterile technologies model and mimic our bodies within nature… Mettler’s sensitive cinematography reveals the lens’s animal origins and ‘animal seeing… Meditative, even transcendent, propelling the experience into the ecstatic.” – Jill Glessing, Point of View Magazine

"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." – Steven Neish, HeyUGuys

“An intoxicatingly coherent reflection about the relationship between Human, Animal, Technology and Nature… 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!" – Marcel Elsener, Saiten Magazine

"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… In the moment where a human being contemplates Becoming Animal on the screen, the possibilities become infinite, like in a hall of mirrors.” – Dominic Schmid, Filmexplorer

“A phenomenological travelogue, a precisely composed polyphonic essay on perception, a re-evaluation of animism, and a vital appeal to relinquish our collective anthropocentric viewpoint before it’s too late – all with glittering intelligence and beauty.”  – Imagine Science Film Festival

"A film that makes you see everything with slightly different eyes." – CPH:DOX


EXCERPTS – BECOMING ANIMAL

Theatrical trailer

Production teaser


FILM STILLS – BECOMING ANIMAL


SELECT FEATURED PRESS

Peter Mettler  Filmexplorer  interview

Peter Mettler Filmexplorer interview


CREDITS

A maximage and SDI Productions film in association with Creative Scotland in co-production with Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen SRF.

Directed by: Emma Davie and Peter Mettler
With the words and presence of David Abram
Produced by: Cornelia Seitler, Rebecca Day, Brigitte Hofer, Sonja Henrici
Editing: Peter Mettler with Emma Davie
Cinematography: Peter Mettler
Sound Recording and Design: Jacques Kieffer and Peter Mettler
Sound Mix: Jacques Kieffer, Magnetix
Picture Design: Patrick Lindenmaier, Andromeda
Additional foley and sound creation: Peter Bräker
Camera Assistant and 2nd Camera: Jordan Kawai

With financial support of: Bundesamt für Kultur (BAK), The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, Zürcher Filmstiftung, Kulturfonds SUISSIMAGE, Volkart Stiftung, UBS Kulturstiftung, Succès Passage Antenne, Pulse / Doc Society, University of Edinburgh, Kulturförderung Appenzell Ausserrhoden

AWARDS AND DISTRIBUTION

Nominated for Best Feature, CPH:DOX
Nominated for Fugas Feature Film Competition
, Documenta Madrid
Nominated for Grand Prix
, Docs Against Gravity
Nominated for Best Feature
, Bildrausch Filmfest
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary
, Edinburgh International Film Festival
Official Selection, Masters, IDFA

Theatrical Distribution:

World distribution – Maximage GmbH

In Europe, beginning Fall 2018 – Outside The Box

In UK, beginning Fall 2018 – Scottish Documentary Institute

In Canada, beginning Spring/Summer 2019 – KinoSmith Inc.

Festival Presentations:

CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Denmark
Docs Against Gravity, Warsaw & Wroclaw, Poland
Documenta Madrid, Spain
Bildrausch Filmfestival, Basel, Switzerland
Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh, UK
Filmfest München, Munich, Germany
Doc Montevideo, Montevideo, Uruguay
DokuFest, Prizren, Kosovo
Open City Documentary Festival, London, UK
Hebridies Internatonal Film Festival, UK
Muestra Internacional Docmental de Bogotá, Columbia
Imagine Science Film Festival, New York City, USA
Kinoatelje Film Festival, Italy and Slovenia
Planet In Focus, Toronto, Canada
Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Czech Republic
Festival dei Popli, Florence, Italy
Duisburger Filmwoche, Germany
Recontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
Porto Post Doc, Portugal
Solothurner Filmtage, Switzerland
Göteborg Film Festival, Sweden

More screenings TBA soon