A submission from guest contributor Herbie Cuffe.
Recommended Viewing Situation:
For whenever you’ve sat down, alone, and wondered if a goat has ever won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Running Time: 88 minutes.
Format: 35mm Film on an Arriflex 535B.
Director: Michelangelo Frammartino.
Writer: Michelangelo Frammartino.
Cinematographer: Andrea Locatelli.
Awards: Label Europa Cinemas, Palm Dog Jury Prize – and more.
Some films scream at you “Go on, just try and review me”. How does one convey the film accurately, but also in a way that makes people want to go and see it?
“So, it’s in a foreign language?”
“Erm, actually there’s no dialogue at all.”
“Oh…and it’s about a goat-farmer?”
“Yes, well, for some of it…it’s also about a tree for a bit.”
Well, here goes. Le Quattro Volte (2o10) is based on an old Pythagorean myth (though I would encourage potential viewers to not read up on it before viewing, in the spirit of something very old-fashioned and pretentious called “making up your own mind”) and is set in an isolated hamlet in Calabria, Southern Italy. It has a quadripartite structure which, after a brief anacrusis depicting a huge charcoal fire, begins with following an invalid goatherd whose superstitions might be making his illness worse. His behaviour reminded me of Arnold Schönberg’s self-fulfilling triskaidekaphobia. The film then transitions to follow a newborn goat, then a tree used as part of a festival in the village, and finally a return to the charcoal fire. I worry that I’m making this sound like some kind of silent documentary instead of the truly enriching and beguiling piece of narrative cinema that it is.
The film brilliantly dissects what we accept as a ground rule in cinema: dramas have to be about humans, if not anthropomorphic toys, monsters, fish, superheroes, cars or feelings. Through raw technique in framing, editing and storytelling, Frammartino makes the goat’s journey or the tree’s quiet dignity every bit as emotionally involving and enriching as the tale of the human. Even as our villagers dot the screen and add chatter to the background song of goat bells and bird calls, they are window dressing; there are no doubts as to who our protagonist is at any given moment. Are we meant to draw parallels between these lives/non-lives? Or are we witnessing the same soul in different forms? And so what if we are, when the overall rhythm of nature is so thrillingly captured?This film answers not in words, but in images. A parting shot of a old-fangled chimney has never inspired such pantheistic mirth in this card-carrying cynic.