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Picture of Light

Year: 1994
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 83 min
Director: Peter Mettler
Producer: Peter Mettler, Alexandra Gill
Executive Producer: Andreas Züst
Writer: Peter Mettler
Cinematographer: Peter Mettler
Editor: Mike Munn, Peter Mettler
Sound: Peter Mettler, Leon Johnson, Peter Bräker, Alexandra Gill, Gaston Kyriazi
Music: Jim O’Rourke
Production Company: Grimthorpe Film, Andreas Züst

Picture of Light grew out of a casual 1990 dinner-table conversation between director Peter Mettler and Swiss meteorologist Andreas Züst, who described his lifelong passion for the northen lights and his desire to see them filmed. Several years later, Züst found himself co-producing a film that would take him, Mettler and his crew to Churchill, Manitoba – which sits, as one local resident points out, at "the end of the civilized world."

What begins as an expedition to Canada’s Arctic in search of the northern lights becomes a cinematic exploration of how light itself is perceived and represented. The inherent paradox of attempting to record the haunting, natural beauty of the aurora borealis becomes both the subject and form of Mettler’s film. Mettler – whose tastes run to the transcendent and the abstract, to questions of metaphysics and matters of the soul – contemplates the relationship between nature and technology and examines the gap between reality and our mediated perception of reality.

The film combines glimpses of the eccentric characters who inhabit this remote corner of the planet with spectacular shots of the aurora borealis. As crew members try to cope with the extremes of the North, Mettler’s inimitable lens investigates the distance between light and dark. He renders the power of the elements almost tangible and infuses the documentary form with a sensual dimension that is nothing less than lyrical.

Picture of Light was very well received by critics and festival audiences (it was named Best Ontario Film at the Sudbury Cinéfest). The film confirmed Mettler’s stature as an intuitive visual genius who opens up unique avenues of perception.

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