SCISSERE, 1982, 83 minutes
A first-person foray into the disorienting realm between reason and sensation, Peter Mettler’s SCISSERE is an incorrigibly inventive first feature film. It deploys a seemingly inexhaustible repertoire of optical effects, in rendering the experiences of a mental patient wandering outside institutional confines for the first time in many years. Wide-eyed and frightened, the central figure (named Bruno Scissere), imagines himself inside the sensibilities of three people he randomly spots at a bus station – a young mother, a heroin addict and an entymologist. Elusive, allusive and aesthetically rich, it summons images from sources as diverse as Andrei Tarkovsky and Michael Snow. SCISSERE is a film which deliberately eludes verbal categorization or description – and with good reason: the only logic heeded by a film about the surrender to pure intuition is the logic of sensation. In this case, reason’s sleep has not bred monsters but inexpressible beauty.
With Scissere Mettler completed his education in film and photography at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto ( now Ryerson University). The film is based on his experiences during a one-year stay as an observer in rehabilitation centre for heroin addicts in Neuchatel (Switzerland). During his visit he met the young Bruno Sciessere - a meeting especially decisive for the film. Bruno had spent many years of his life in psychiatric clinics, because he was unable to comprehend the intrinsically chaotic world as an orderly social system. Scissere is dedicated to him.
The film opens with a 12- minute montage sequence of impressionistic images. Shots of the sky, colourfully abstract woods and dancing light reflections on the water's surface are technically so estranged that graphic and textural qualities of nature are thrown into relief. Gradually the abstract images become representational, and the film leads us into the deserted corridors of a psychiatric clinic which a young man is just leaving. In an expanded moment of confrontation with reality beyond the clinic's walls, he imagines himself perceiving as three different people, who, parallel in time but independently of each other, spend a day in Toronto: a heroin addict committing a theft to obtain his dose; a young mother enjoying a free day in town, and an elderly entomologist in his laboratory discovering an unusual species of moth. They all live in their identified classified systems, seeking ways of identity and stability. In the final shots the four characters gather in a subway station. Unaware of each other, they are united for a brief moment by the framework of the film images.
Fragmented stories and ways of perception are approached by employing estranging film techniques: animated photographs, combinations of slow motion with stop motion effects, sequences immersed in cool blue, diverse qualities of film stock. Together with the associative sound track featuring choral music, voices whispering, noises and rhythmic sounds they build an audio-visual composition which lets the sparse dialogue fade into the background.
Just as the young man is seeking to affirm his identity, filmmaker Peter Mettler searches for his own cinematic form. In his first long film Mettler explores a free form of filmmaking that will become essential to his later work; a reflective manner of handling the medium, a discussion of tensions and associations and a non-linear narrative form demanding the audience's active participation.
Original version: BW, Colour, 16mm, 83 min
Director, Script, Picture and Sound Editing: Peter Mettler
Camera: Peter Mettler
Sync Sound Recording: Bruce McDonald, Henry Jesionka, Marsh Birchard
Additional Sound Recording: Peter Mettler, Bruno Degazio
Additional Picture Editing: Bruce McDonald, Joey Hardin
Additional Sound Editing: Bruno Degazio
Music Excerpts: Meredith Monk; Ramayana Monkey Chant; Max Roach;
Ornette Coleman; Gregorian Chant; Bruno Degazio
Sound Mix: Peter Mettler
Producers: Peter Mettler; Ron Repke
Production: Collaborative Effort Productions, 4th year film school thesis
Cast: Greg Krantz( Clinic Patient) , Natalie Olanick ( mother), Sandy MacFadyen ( Heroin Addict), Anthony Downes ( Entomologist), Christie MacFadyen
( Babysitter) et al
Shooting Locations: Toronto, Algonquin Park, Ontario
“An eye opener: ninety minutes of intensive exploration of the viewer’s perception without pause, a storm of free-handed optical and acoustical effects, rendered ruthlessly powerful. SCISSERE is light years away from the overly-cautious-films-for-the-average-viewer syndrome of most first films.”
– Martin Schaub Zurich Tages Anzeiger
“SCISSERE...immerses us in a visual experience akin to that of listening to music...entering straight and untranslated into our consciousness and staying there, echoing, illuminating beyond word and thought.”
– Laurinda Hartt Cinema Canada
SCISSERE, Mettler's first feature film completed when he was still at Ryerson Polytechnical, took audiences by storm when it debuted at the Toronto Festival of Festivals in 1983. Thought of as one of the films that kick-started the Toronto revival of independent filmmaking, it was immediately recognized for its singularity of vision, and won several awards including the Norman Maclaren Award for best Canadian student film of the year. SCISSERE is a landmark film, which to this day remains influential among many directors including Mettler’s colleagues Atom Egoyan and Bruce McDonald.
“Like a free-fall from a vanished plane...This is a film of strange beauty and extraordinary power.”
– Laurinda Hartt Cinema Canada
“A lusciously sensual aural and visual experience which gradually organizes itself into narrative.”
– Kay Armatage Toronto International Film Festival
Independent Film Tour of Canada and U.S. Various North American, European and Asian Festivals including Mannheim and " Le Festival de Folie Culture de Québec). World Premier in " New Directors/New Directions at the Toronto Film Festival. Special screenings in Canada, Switzerland and Germany. Received awards for first feature film, most notably the Norman McLaren Award for Best Film from "le conservatoire d'art cinématographique Montreal
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