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A filmmaker's inquiry into transcendence becomes a three-hour trip across countries and cultures, interconnecting people, places and times. From Toronto, the scene of his childhood, Peter Mettler sets out on a journey that includes evangelism at the airport strip, demolition in Las Vegas, tracings in the Nevada desert, chemistry and street life in Switzerland, and the coexistence of technology and divinity in contemporary India. Everywhere along the way, the same themes are to be found: thrill-seeking, luck, destiny, belief, expanding perception, the craving for security in an uncertain world. Fact joins with fantasy; the search for meaning and the search for ecstasy begin to merge. Written by
This is a superb film, but Canadian writer-director Peter Mettler is a victim of his own dazzling vision: he covers a lot of intense psychological territory while he challenges us to look within ourselves. But (and here's the rub) he takes a whopping three hours to do it.
For viewers to really appreciate this work, it is mandatory to see it again, and again, and again. You could spend an entire 24-hour-day studying the intricacies of this film, and you'd still have enough questions to take you well into a second day.
The film has been compared to Godfrey Reggio's epic three-part series (Koyaanisquati, Powataqqatsi, and Nagoyqatsi), but GG&LSD is a very different work in that Mettler offers a cinematic narrative, a series of 'storylines,' while Reggio just flat-out floors you with perhaps the most relentlessly stunning photography ever committed to film.
We visit Toronto, the Nevada desert, Las Vegas, Switzerland and India. We see people who talk about psychic experiences, including (you guessed it) visitations with Jesus and God. We get to imagine what it's like to view building implosions in reverse; we see a man (a self-described 'scientist') who induces female orgasms by remote control; we hear about finite molecules drifting forever from one living organism to another, adopting new 'hosts' as they go, so that none of us ever really dies; we learn about LSD as a drug that liberates our dormant, long-repressed and 'unconscious' inner perceptions of existence itself; and we hear about other drugs like heroin that allegedly (and fleetingly) tend to do the same thing.
Mettler offers us a complicated excursion into the omnipresent mysticism of life and dares us to examine the received 'truths' all around us. What, he asks, is the actual reality of existence? When we dare to look beneath the surface, what does it really mean to be alive and human?
This is all fascinating material, but one quibble I have with Mettler goes something like this: the characters who walk us through these voyages come on the screen, they're interesting, we want to see more of them, and then -- zap -- they disappear, drift away, and we're introduced to somebody else. The transitions can be jarring. There are no resolutions with these characters. But maybe that's the point: in life, there are no real resolutions.
Mettler shot so much footage (he took three years to edit this), that perhaps it should have been a series, a la Reggio and his three epics.
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