Canada/Switzerland / 1985 / 58 minutes
Eastern Avenue is an exploration of intuition, using film as a kind of audio-visual improvisation. The structure and innate “story” of the film were formed by the chronology of experiences and perceptions that emerged from a journey to Berlin, Portugal and Switzerland.
The objective was to respond with a camera in a fashion not unlike a jazz improvisation, as impulsively and intuitively as possible. The resulting work is sensuous, lyrical, and very personal, with a strong kinship to music – a reflection of the movements of the unconscious.
“In the spring of 1983, I took a trip into my intuition through Switzerland, Berlin and Portugal. The following images are, for the most part impulsive intuitive reactions to the people and places I saw. They are cut together in a chronological order with the same impulsive approach, as is also the sound.”
With these words, Peter Mettler introduces Eastern Avenue. From material shot during a three-month journey, he edited a lyrical film that is no ordinary travelogue or diary. Without occupying himself in advance with anticipated images, he attempted as often as spontaneously possible to respond and react to his surroundings, improvising with the camera as one would on a musical instrument. These visual notes allow insights into perceptions, feelings and emotional states in various situations.
Cloud formations from a plane window; snowy landscapes; a young woman painting; the high interior of a baroque church; dilapidated, ghetto-like buildings; sightseers at the Berlin Wall; a greenhouse and cramped, neglected apartments; a child building a sandcastle; the steam rising from a coffee cup… Superimposition and dissolves, extreme close-ups, zoom-ins and canted framing are the means by which Mettler creates unusual multi-layered images. Filmed from moving cars and trains, passing landscapes seem unreal and distorted. In exceptional moments, the camera movements match the movements of what is being filmed: people dancing in a Berlin disco, the raging surf in Portugal. The camera's searching glance circles around objects without emphasizing centres of attraction and only comes to a standstill when contemplating human faces – including Mettler's – in frontal close-up.
In editing, Mettler's aim was to achieve an organic whole. Almost all footage was used (with a 1:1.3 shooting ration), and the structure, course and rhythms of the film were determined solely by the chronology of experiences. In creating the soundtrack, Mettler made a mix out of five tapes in an equally unprejudiced manner; a cello and a violin improvised live to a picture playback and then were mixed with sounds and voices from India and Toronto, ethnic recordings, playing children, choral songs and excerpts from records. The collage-like sound does not seek to emphasize, but to create a unity with the images.
Mettler had not planned to release Eastern Avenue theatrically. This personal travelogue, meant as a true intuitive experiment and diary, evolved in response to the intellectually structured work on his first feature, Scissere (1982). The experiences he made served as a working tool to develop ideas and strategies for The Top Of His Head (1989).
Director, Script, Picture and Sound Editing: Peter Mettler
Camera: Peter Mettler
Music: Fred Frith, Jean-Marc Lariviere, Joey Hardin (cello), Christie MacFadyen (violin), Becky Jenkins and Judy Dryland (voice)
Producer: Peter Mettler
Production: Independently produced, with the assistance of the National Film Board of Canada
Shooting Locations: Switzerland, Germany, Portugal
“Mettler’s Eastern Avenue traces a personal trajectory from the wellsprings of consciousness, the intuitive process. It records a journey that begins in Berlin at the wall, and concludes in the sunnier climate of Portugal, but this is no ordinary travelogue or diary.” – Filmography
“A travelogue in Berlin, Switzerland and Portugal, Mettler describes these places in terms of textures: a glazed ceramic surface, tight closeups of faces, the muddy underside of ocean waves".” – NOW Magazine
”A sophisticated cameraman’s sketchbook.” – The Globe and Mail