Le Quattro Volte **
Directed by: Michelangelo Frammartino.
Written by: Michelangelo Frammartino.
I have a feeling that Michelangelo Frammartino’s highly acclaimed Le Quattro Volte played better on the big screen than it did for me sitting in my living room watching it on DVD. This is one of those films that, if it works properly, is supposed to put you in a trance. It is a film with no dialogue, no real story and long still takes, as it looks at the circle of life – or at least the four forms of life – human, animal, vegetable and spirit. One of these gives way to another during the course of the film. If you’re in the right frame of mind, a film like this can be a profound experience – it’s slow and meditative pacing allows you time to think and ruminate on what you’re seeing and what it means. Obviously, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I was watching the film – more often than not, it left me bored. But that’s why I think it probably worked better in the theatre – free from all distractions, the movie would have made more a chance to breath and win me over.
The movie takes place in a remote, Italian village, where it seems like nothing much happens. It focuses on an old goat herder, weathered and worn, approaching death. There is an overwhelming sadness to this man, who is holding onto life, when perhaps he should let go. He is surviving, at least in part, because of a powder he takes every day. One day, when he loses his powder, he tries to get more and fails. He dies that night, and we watch his funeral procession, and see him locked away in the darkness of his tomb.
The movie than shocks us back to light, as we see a young goat being born. We see the goat as it grows and changes, but one day, he will lose his herd. He settles down next to a fir tree, and during the long course of the night, he too will die. The “action” then centers on that tree that we see chopped down and turned into charcoal. The charcoal is then delivered to a house in the village, where it is burned, and the plumb of smoke coming out of the chimney is all that’s left.
That’s it – that’s the movie. I cannot think of too many regular film goers who would like this movie. And yet, for the adventuresome, for the people who like this type of meditative cinema, than Le Quattro Volte is for you. Personally, I didn’t much care for it. Yes, the film is strikingly photographed in its long takes, and there are images that will likely haunt you. But for me, the movie never really weaved the spell it wanted to.
Yet again, I return to what seeing this film in a theatre must be like. I can see it winning me over there. But for home viewing, Le Quattro Volte simply didn’t work for me.