Film: Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times)
[also referred to as The Four Turns / The Four Stages]
Director: Michelangelo Frammartino
Venue: ICA, London
Further Info: http://www.ica.org.uk/
+ Goats, Snails and at least one Dog.
Running Time (*spoiler*): 88 minutes
As always, I – deliberately – read nothing, or almost nothing about this film. That is, except for there being the belief, or truth that life has four essential stages – these being human, animal, vegetable and mineral. Not only this, how the soul (allegedly) passes from one stage to the next – and this is essentially what this ‘drama’ filmed in Calabria focuses on.
This pretty abstract tale is not for everyone, and perhaps not even yours truly but hey, I’ve sat through (and enjoyed) “Sweetgrass”…! In fact there is more than one comparison between this movie and that. Both feature little dialogue. They both feature long shots. And where one is essentially about sheep and their herders or ranchers, the other contains many a goat and a few village habitants.
Habitant number one is an old shepherd (for those goats) and whom for the first part of the picture we are drawn to and our focus forced upon.
This shepherd…let’s call him Mr Shepherd…has one hell of a nasty cough. So much so that it would seem he’s on his last legs. His coughing feels almost constant and becomes almost the OST, there not being a music soundtrack to this film.
But what is Mr Shepherd seemingly addicted to? Drugs? Minerals? You’ll certainly see similarities to modern day social or non-social addictions here. Well, I did.
We soon have one very long scene and shot-come-tracking-shot. This contains the following occurrences:
*The contrast between modern and old when a Motorbike passes a guy dressed as a Roman Centurian. But why is he dressed like this and is he alone?
*The hilarity of a child trying to pass a Dog. Can the dog smell this child’s fear [memories came flooding back to me about my similarly-scared dog moments in my life].
*An interaction between this same dog and a small truck. Incidentally, something occurs but we do not see it…the camera artistically draws our attention away from these events.
We mustn’t just concentrate on these characters though, the quaint Calabrian homes we see are picturesque (as too is the countryside & the landscape). It’s funny though, that as lovely a place as these houses or farms may look, if we saw such homesteads in our own country [UK, for me] we may stereotype them as dilapidated, and not picturesque.
But back to the characters, in the form of animals anyway. As well as goats and a dog or two there is a fantastic & almost surreal scene involving snails.
There is the death of a certain human, which is immediately followed by the birth of an animal. Reincarnation? Hmmm…
[You can think of the latter as a tiny spoiler but you could also give me a break..! 😉 But ok, if you like the thought of a tiny bit more ‘spoiling’ then read the very end of this review – Call it a Foot Note, not just because it’s at the Foot of the page…but you could also look at like I/You are putting one’s own Foot in things by revealing a spoiler!]
The next shots are of baby goats…who, as per their real name truly act as ‘kids’. Playful, for want of a better word. I felt that I could watch these animals for ages, and this from not-the-world’s biggest animal lover!
Ahead of being shown the Seasons Change which is artfully beautiful we see Situations Change for these kids…one is stranded. It’s pretty sad but entrancing too. Think of E.T. getting left behind but without the saccharine.
We’re also shown a little bit of camerawork and close ups that even David Attenborough would be proud of…of an ant, to name the subject of a memorable shot. Perhaps it was arranged by David Ant-tenborough. *sigh*
We’re next shown what seems like the worlds longest – yes, not tallest – tree, as it’s moved from one area to another by many folk.
In fact, I suppose essentially the last few scenes contain timber in some form or another.
And almost finally we have what would appear to be the result of a load of chopped & sliced timber, covered with a mound of soil. Is this an ash pile? If so, is it to represent the phrase, Ashes to Ashes. In fact, like Michael Palin we seem to have gone ‘Full Circle’ and back to an early scene from the start of the film.
Q: A Q & A would have been interesting here?
Snippet from ICA:
“The cycle of existence is cleverly turned into a narrative film with a documentary feel by director Michelangelo Frammartino, who shifts his focus from human to animal to vegetable to mineral without leaving a picturesque hillside Calabrian village. Even if the wordless action is largely abstract the rhythm of natural carries the viewer along, moving from an elderly shepherd to his unruly flock, from a Good Friday pole-climbing ritual to the ultimate transformation of all the energy flowing through the village. A beguiling blend of everyday occurrences and ineffable mystery that audiences of all ages and interests will find richly rewarding.”
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The promised slightly ‘spoiling’ Foot Note…:
SPOILER (But Hardly):
The crying of the kid goat not only could be replacing a human who features heavily at the start of the movie but if I told you the crying also replaces the ‘coughing’ you will know which character I’m referring. There, mini-mini spoiler over. Done.