MOVIE REVIEW: Le Quattro Volte
Let me quote the press release for Le Quattro Volte. The movie “is an ineffably beautiful meditation on the mysterious cycles of life. Set in Italy’s mountainous region of Calabria, it traces the path of one goat herder’s soul as it passes from human to animal to vegetable to mineral. Director Michelangelo Frammartino was inspired by Pythagoras’ belief in ‘four-fold transmigration’ of souls, but his film is far more physical than philosophical.”
Watching this film makes me realize one thing – no matter how hard I try or how much I want to better myself as a film buff, I’m not cut out to review art films. I have no background in film school, I’m just a humble movie fan. And this average fan found Le Quattro Volte to be breathtakingly beautiful…and utterly confusing.
Obviously, though, the film has affected me in some way, because I’m still thinking about it 24 hours after having seen it. I’m still pondering exactly what the director meant with this or that, and why he chose to go the way that he did. I don’t understand the metaphor of the goat herder mixing dust from the local church floor with water and then drinking it every night. Maybe he thinks it is holding at bay whatever health problems he may have, I don’t know. But I’d like to know WHERE he got this notion, and WHY he thinks this way. And so of course neither of those questions are answered – in the movies’ perception, it just IS. And that’s the way the film poses most of it’s queries – with no answers, just a frank “thats the way it is”, as if to do anything else would deviate from the norm.
I disagree with the press releases’ notion that the film is more physical than philosophical. The movie is filled with philosophical metaphors throughout, and they do make you think. It seems to me that this movie’s primary purpose is to ask the same question Spock percieved the VGer space probe to be asking in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, namely “Is this all there is? Is there nothing more?”
What a depressing thought.
The path of the soul of goat herder through a baby goat to a majestic tree and finally to charcoal is also a bit mindbending – you have to accept the notion that inanimate objects have souls, which I do not. But as the movie takes you through these four soul trans-migrations, and you end up full circle where you began, it does give one pause, and makes one wonder if there is a cycle of life different from how we would normally perceive it.
Visually, the film is breathtaking, from it’s extreme closeups of the goat herder and later the goats themselves to the beauty of the Cambrian countryside. The director’s style and his choice of shots reminded me often of one of my all time favorite films, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, which in my opinion is the ultimate visual experience. But whereas that film takes you through life at a breakneck pace, Frammartino’s film does the opposite – it takes you through this visual experience at a snails’ pace, giving you time to ponder each visual shot and why it was used, as well as the natural beauty of the area.
I’d been wanting to see the film for months, and overall, I’m glad I finally got the chance to see it. It wasn’t at all what I expected from what I read about it, and it has given me a great deal to think about. For in seeing the life of the goat herder, you are bound to begin to think about your own life and what purpose you have in life. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.
MY SCORE: B