Particle physicists may want to measure how slowly the seconds pass during Peter Mettler’s “The End of Time.” Intermittently interesting but more often pretentious, this sluggish exploration of time as real and conceived concepts rarely does more than regurgitate philosophical platitudes without locating the depth to make them interesting. Despite Mettler’s ambition, seen to greater effect in “Gambling, Gods and LSD,” the docu fails to connect its beautiful images with a profound statement, making fests alone the likely endgame.

The opening could be excerpted for a natural history museum display, as Mettler interviews physicists at a giant particle accelerator about the origin of time and its meaning. Later, he moves to Hawaii and an active volcano whose stunning lava flows slowly destroy a once-green mountainside. Next comes Detroit, the go-to metropolis whenever urban decay is discussed (the Motor City deserves to be more than a cliche). Finally, and unsurprisingly, come India, and Buddhist concepts of temporality; lines like “the future is dependent on the present” aren’t exactly earth-shattering. Impressively elaborate soundscapes reach their apogee in the closing, psychedelic animated sequence.

The End of Time


  • Production: A Look Now! (in Switzerland)/Mongrel Media (in Canada) release of a Maximage, Grimthorpe Film, National Film Board of Canada, SRF, SRG SSR, Arte Geie production. (International sales: National Film Board of Canada, Toronto.) Produced by Cornelia Seitler, Ingrid Veninger, Brigitte Hofer, Gerry Flahive. Executive producers, Peter Mettler, Silva Basmajian. Directed, written by Peter Mettler.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Mettler; editors, Mettler, Roland Schlimme; music, Gabriel Scotti, Vincent Haenni. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 4, 2012. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Masters.) Running time: 109 MIN.
  • With: (English dialogue)
  • Music By: