Sunday, February 5, 2012

Le quattro volte ***½

Director: Michelangelo Frammartino
Cast: Giuseppe Fuda, Bruno Timpano, Nazareno Timpano

Le quattro volte is the rare kind of movie that invites you to reexamine the concepts of life and cinema while remaining endlessly entertaining. Set in a small village in Calabria, the film takes the Pythagorean concept of metempsychosis and turns it into beautifully simple cinematic poetry. Pythagoras thought that once we die, our souls traveled and were born again in another element.
The film then features the transmigration of a goatherd's (Fuda) soul on to a fir tree, a goat and charcoal. All of this is done with the utmost subtlety, with the director never suggesting other than through clever editing that his movie is about reincarnation.
Through a series of visual cues he lets audiences grasp on to the fact that the movie has roots on ancient philosophical beliefs (Pythagoras after all lived in the area where the film takes place) but he never makes a point out of it.
The film instead settles to provide the viewer with various episodes that merely observe life around them. We see how the goatherd goes to church daily where he sweeps and collects the dust, which he then drinks as a health elixir. Because the movie has virtually no dialogues, its serenity resembles an Indian "om" which allows our minds to transport themselves in the middle of the movie.
This is especially remarkable because the film never limits us to the confines of its fiction. That it happens to have quasidocumentary qualities makes this easier and also invites us to wander through the confines of something less metaphysical (or is it?) than soul-traveling: the creation of movies.
How long did it take director Frammartino to make a movie of this scope? The major wonder in Le quattro volte is that everything feels like it's done on such a small scale, but upon second thought you realize that a movie without the benefits of CGI and even professional actors (how do you train a goat to follow directorial cues?) must've been quite an undertaking.
In the film's most impressive scene, a dog, upon realizing that his master has died tries to warn other villagers who are in the middle of a recreation of the Passion. Without using a single cut, Frammartino shows the dog's insistence, leading all the way to an act that would've made Lassie green with envy.
The film's sincerity grants it with some hilarious moments, like the sight of a goat standing on a table without the oppressing need of showing us how it climbed on it, and it also helps it achieve a tender humanity that makes your heart sink in your chest.
Because we are observing life we are granted a certain godlike quality: we are invited to invade the lives of people who couldn't be farther from where and who we are, while being bluntly reminded that perhaps we are all one and the same.

No comments: