An Interview with Peter Mettler (Director)
Looking Beyond Where You Are
Q: What do you think of films defined as “self-documentaries”?
PM: I think what “self-documentary” is getting at has to do with the fact that every film is subjective no matter how far you are trying to be objective. You are controlling the situation by making the film. You are controlling what is going to be in the film, because it is going through you. So there is immediately a sense of authorship whether the author is present in the film or not. I think there are various degrees of that authorship to the point where in some films, the director is a subject of the film, and in others—such as my own work—it is more like I am acting as a filter. And I bring in elements of the story that are almost like little keys to enable the audience to accompany me on this journey. It is not really about me.
Q: There is a difference between looking for something and just looking. For example, a person you are looking at looks back at you and you look back . . . . in India you have a shot of a man sitting on the ground that notices a camera and starts staring at it. It seems like, without a verbal dialog per se, you have a kind of connection with a subject in the film.
PM: The statement you mentioned is a very critical one for the whole film. It has to do in a way with the difference between looking beyond where you are and just being where you are and seeing what is right in front of you. And I think we do that in our lives as well as in filmmaking. It seems to take a lot of energy to focus; sometimes just to be here and see everything in this room can be related to themes you are actually dealing with. That is one of the things in making the film that became more and more clear to me. In India, when I saw that man, it was actually a surprise that I had a taboo feeling about shooting a handicapped person. Although he fascinated me, I did not expect to film him. But he appeared as I was shooting the first shot. And he was fascinated with us. There was no language in common and it was a series of looks. But it was touching.
Q: Another important theme in this film is a where process you are thinking about how filmmaking is one of your means of discovering meaning in the world and interacting with the world. How does this reflect back on the audience who is watching the film?
PM: I think they go through the same process while they are watching the film. They are going through an experience that for some people is quite challenging, because the film does not follow expected patterns at all, and for others it is more familiar. But in either case it is a process of reflection in identification. You identify with certain people in the film, and you don’t identify with others. Certain landscapes have a meaning to you from your own experience and others do not. I am trying to make juxtapositions, not making a judgmental comparison, but just an associated tableau. And the audience sees their own commonality with different people who they think they may have nothing to do with.
(Compiled by Kato Hatsuyo)
Interviewer: Michael Arnold
Photography: Sakuma Harumi / Video: Hashimoto Yuko / 2005-10-12