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Dutch filmmaker Frank Scheffer spent more than 20 years following the American composer Elliot Carter to create this absorbing portrait of an artist, a movement, and an entire century. Carter's life begins in the century's beginning, stretching from a New York City without automobiles to Paris in the 1930s, from the Greenwich Village of the 1950s to a post-September 11 downtown of rubble and fire engines. Manhattan-born, raised, and still residing, Carter could fascinate solely as a symbol of New York City itself, but it is his music, and his effort to "consider time in a different way," that has made him arguably America's most influential, respected classical composer. Shaped by the modernist movement, Carter may have studied the work of Varese and Ives, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, but his synthesis is all his own, its mix of cerebral tones and passion all the more remarkable for having been created, as one colleague admires, not by Europeans, but by these barbarian Americans, who produce Coca-Cola and popcorn. Merging elegiac images of the world around Carter (New York subways, the American landscape, Paris) with revealing interviews and a breathtaking soundtrack of modernist pieces, A Labyrinth of Time reveals how one man's artistry can become, to borrow the title of his 1976 piece, a mirror in which to dwell.
Born in 1956, in The Netherlands, Frank Scheffer studied at the Academy for International Design in Eindhoven and at the Vrije Academie Art College in The Hague, under the tutelage of experimental filmmaker Frank Zwartjes. Also a graduate of the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam, Scheffer founded Allegri Film Company, which specializes in art and music documentaries. He has made documentaries about many important musicians of the 20th century, including Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Brian Eno, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schonberg, and Igor Stravinsky. Other films have included Zoetrope People (a film about Francis Ford Coppola), a documentary on the Dalai Lama and other sociocultural subjects, and music videos. In 2004, Scheffer completed A Labyrinth of Time, a film stemming from his 25-year interest in the work of Elliott Carter. Another work-in-progress is a documentary on the Tea-Opera composed by Tan Dun. Scheffer was honored with a complete retrospective of his films at the 2001 Holland Festival.