The End of Time
Runs Fri., Feb. 7–Thurs., Feb. 13 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 114 minutes.
Peter Mettler’s inquisitive doc clocks in at a non-tedious 114 minutes of philosophy, but there are other units of temporal measurement. In the bowls of the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland, this film would be considered an eternity, since its scientists are studying sub-atomic bits of the most ephemeral nature. In a Hawaiian suburb gradually being overrun by lava flows, The End of Time wouldn’t even register as a blink—it’s as geologically insignificant as Mettler or the moviegoer or all recorded human history. In crumbling Detroit, which Mettler also visits, no one would even have time to watch such a ruminative doc—it’s unclear if any art-house cinemas are even left there.
So there are different ways of thinking about time, and Mettler sets some lovely images to his musings (“The Earth will heal itself; humans will be gone”) and borrowed aphorisms (“In many languages, time and weather is the same word”). The effect of this rambling essay film is like a TED talk crossed with Coachella: educational, but reaching toward the ecstatic—a loss of awareness of time. Mettler also visits Bodhgaya, India, to watch meditation sessions and corpses being burned. “If you have a beginning, there is always a problem,” says one Buddhist sage. Cut to time-lapse skies with a lulling electronica score. Dude, whoa.
With prior documentary titles including Gambling, Gods and LSD, Mettler is working somewhere in the trip-film continuum traced from 2001 to Koyaanisqatsi. He’s not a scientist, more of a cosmic speculator or aggregator. If time is a subjective notion, that means it can be defined in myriad ways, and no one—not even the director—gets the final word on the subject. The chalkboard fills up, until the director’s aged mother renders her verdict on the meaning of time. She rejects a conceptual framework, saying instead, “We have to make the most of [time]. Enjoy everything possible.” Yes, but there are other ways of enjoying 114 minutes.