Le Quattro Volte

6th June 2011 | Daily Life, Inspirations | 0 comments

Saw a quietly beautiful Italian film, Le Quattro Volte, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino. It was inspired by Pythagoras’s belief that each of us contains four interlinked lives: human, animal, vegetable and mineral. ‘Man is made of mineral, because he has a skeleton; he’s a plant, because he has blood flowing through his veins like sap; he’s an animal because he has mobility, and he’s also a rational being’, explains the director.

These four states of being are personified in the film by a shepherd, his goats, a large fir tree under which one of the goats dies, and charcoal made by burning the tree. There’s no dialogue to speak of, and the focus is on the nature and scenery of a village in Calabria. But this is no gorgeous Italian landscape; it’s poor, bare and the grass looks thirsty. The camera lingers on scenes which hold little of conventional beauty, yet there is plenty of poetry.

At the start of the film we see an elderly shepherd coughing painfully as he stirs a powder into his bedtime glass of water. Next we see motes of dust settling slowly on to the floor of the local church in the sunlight. We see the old shepherd arriving to collect a handful of dust swept from the church floor by an old woman. She blesses the dust and folds it into a page torn from a magazine. Later that night we see the shepherd carefully unfold the page and tip the dust into his bedtime drink, coughing painfully as he does so. He clearly believes this holy dust is curing him, but is it in fact making his cough worse? There are several heartrending paradoxes like this in the film.

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