The Four Times
In the backcountry of southern Italy’s mountainous region of Calabria, an old shepherd leads his flock to pasture along paths in the hills which have fallen into disuse. Every morning, the church housekeeper trades a handful of the church’s dust for some of the shepherd’s fresh milk. Every evening, the elderly shepherd dissolves the "magic" powder in water and drinks this mixture to remedy his aches and pains. One day, he doesn’t show up for their trade. The next day, he dies in his bed as his goats keep vigil over his passing. A kid takes its first steps, but he is slower than the rest of the flock and falls behind. He falls into a ditch in the middle of the forest. Unable to climb out, he bleats for help, but neither the new shepherd, nor his dog, hear him. When he finally emerges from the ditch, he finds that he is alone. He wanders aimlessly until, as night begins to fall, he stumbles onto a majestic fir tree in which he seeks shelter.
I read that it was a visual poem to the Pythagorean idea of the soul migrating from man to animal to plant life. Whoa. That's a film for a Sunday morning viewing if ever there was one. I thought I would have to come prepared with knowledge of pre-Socratic philosophy, not my strong suit.
I didn't really want to work that hard. I preferred the idea of wanting to see it at some point in my life, secretly hoping that that point might never turn into a concrete now. But alas I noticed that it was expiring on Netflix very soon. It had to be done. I picked a morning time slot and came to it with plenty of caffeine.…
The wind still blows.
The wind is the world in motion. We are the world. We are the wind.
We are the bells.
We change every day. We are not stone.
We are flesh. And blood. And fur. And dirt.
We await. We adore. We transform.
Time never stops.
The wind still blows.
It gives us breath, it carries our words. It carries us.
It chimes the bells.
The bells are life. The bells are home.
We tend to the bells, and the bells tend to us.
Nature and routine. An eternal symbiosis guiding us into the unknown.
Both with the same goal, reward, curse.
Life and death. Flesh and blood.
Winner signaled by brief panic, then death.…
After watching Le Quattro Volte it was early evening. I walked outside and pulled some small splits from our wood stack in preparation to build the evening fire. I brought them into the kitchen, laid them near the stove, and gathered some dry kindling like I always do.
I opened the stove door, and delicately shoveled the top layer of fine ash and dust and carefully deposited it into the ash pail beside the stove like I always do. The ash pail will later be emptied into an air tight ash can in the driveway, the contents later used on our driveway on icy winter days. The removal of the ash reveals a small bed of glowing embers, gently releasing…
Film #13 of Cinebro's "Long Live the New Flesh" Challenge
I throw the word "meditative" around a lot when describing movies. It's not until I saw "Le Quattro Volte," however, that I realized how empty of a descriptor that is.
"Le Quattro Volte" is a dialogue-free story set in the steppes of Southern Italy. Based on the "four realms" of Pythagorean metaphysics (animal, vegetable, mineral, and rational/intellectual), it gives us four interconnected stories charting various stages of birth, death, and reincarnation. Traditional plot devices are replaced by quiet contemplation. A lot of time is spent observing the daily life of a goat, for example, or the felling of a tree. You may be rolling your eyes already, picturing a fat…
Meditative is normally a polite way of saying a film is crushingly slow and boring, yet the description is accurate here and far from a criticism. Le Quattro Volte is a film about life, its cycles and unwavering endurance. Set in a small farming village nestled in the Italian hills of Calabria, the film chronicles life in four acts; each focused on the Pythagorean philosophy that mineral, vegetable, animal and human are all reincarnated.
It is a film that deals in big and small moments and treats them all with equal importance. Words such as transcendent, profound and spiritual can easily be thrown around when describing the film, and they would be worthy descriptions, but what is surprising is that…
Delightful exploration of nature unfolding.
Small-town Calabria as Pedro Costa might have filmed it.
Some "how did he do that?" moments, and some stunningly high-art "things they do with wood in Calabria," which is probably what drew Frammantino to make the film in the first place.
Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"
Here is a movie that has the confidence to make a protagonist of a tree. Michelangelo Frammartino’s film, pitched somewhere between documentary and drama, is a dialogue-free chronicle of life in its equally ephemeral and eternal stature. Loosely comprised of four sections, only one of which involves a human character, it’s at once utterly simplistic and profoundly complex, the grand invocations it makes about life, the universe, and everything rendering it an inexplicably moving viewing experience that’s variously hilarious and heartbreaking, often for no conceivable reason at all. Beautifully composed in long, static shots—the camera will occasionally move to follow the movements of the funniest goats ever seen on screen—Le Quattro Volte is pure cinema without the pretension that label suggests, a simple utilisation of the integral abilities of film to record life. The story it comes to tell, practically an incidental finding it stumbles upon, is the greatest ever told.
Life, death, goatherding and tree-chopping in a small village. Simple and beautiful.
Without dialogue or non-diegetic sound, we follow an old goat-farmer, his goats, a tree, and some charcoal. It's the circle of life! And it's funny, thoughtful and beautiful.
Slightly challenging in its nonchalant dismissal of traditional narrative, Frammartino's film is a unique piece. Part documentary, part poem, part essay, part movie, it coolly and precisely observes some characters around an Italian mountain village. Only one of those characters is human; an old goat farmer we follow for the first reel, observing his everyday routine. He walks his goats to a pasture, sits beneath a tree, brings them home, trades goats milk for dust from the town church, which he dissolves into a glass before bed at night, collects snails. The soundtrack is the bells round the necks of the goats and his worsening cough. The second character is a calf, born to one of his goats after his…
There is three parts in this film. The first part we see an old shepard, who's whispering on his last song. The second part, we follow a little baby goat, who are separated from his flock. both this two parts was so amazing, that I was thinking of giving it five stars and add this movie to my list of favorit movies of all time. But the third part, which is the history about a tree, which is cut down, used as a christmas tree, then cut into pieces, then cut up to more pieces etc. this is what make this movie not so perfect I had hoped, it's to long and not interesting to watch. Why have this part about a tree, when the rest is about animals, why not make the best animal movie ever. Beside all this, the movies have many beautiful long shots, wonderful cinematography. So it was absolutely worth to watch.
Around the world in May-ty days: Italy.
The purest, most organic piece of cinema I have ever seen.
The camera work is very well done, lots of stills and slow movements, no distracting motion stutter atall.
The interview with director, Michaelangelo Frammartino was just as captivating as the film itself.