The critically acclaimed film ‘Le quattro volte’ is simply a masterpiece. This film shows what no other form of storytelling could, and it does so in a simple, yet compelling manner.
‘Le quattro volte’ is a film by Michelangelo Frammantino that has won its share of awards. And rightfully so. The film itself briefly follows the story of an old shepherd, played by Giuseppe Fuda, who dies alone after having lost his ‘medicine’. From here on, there is no going back – goats, trees, villagers, they all take the centre stage at one point or another, guiding us through this experience. And that’s what this film really is – an experience, more than anything else.
Fuda is the only actor mentioned in the credits, along with mentions of the village and Vuk, the shepherd’s dog, who has even received his own award. Blurring the lines between reality and cinema, one can never be sure if the things that are happening have been scripted or not. Being a film with no dialogue at all and seemingly no storyline either, ‘Le quattro volte’ is incredibly immersive. At first one might not be convinced of the film’s storytelling techniques, as they require a completely different approach to what we are normally used to. The film is a series of images, where emotions conveyed through movements tell the story. Not everything is explained, and some things are never resolved. You as the viewer are left quite alone as the observer of this small Italian village, and this can take some adjusting to. Some things might seem quite peculiar, but it is the frank authenticity that makes this film so engaging. ‘Le quattro volte’ leaves you wanting more, even if it is just to watch what the goats are up to. From the processions to the professions, through to the odd superstitions of the villagers; the audience gets to know the village just as if it was another actor.
The images are what make this film, and the scenery as well as the pacing is both beautiful and heart wrenching. Moving through the seasons we encounter both sadness as well as humour, and this shows that film does not need to rely on conventional methods to bring a message across. In fact, ‘Le quattro volte’ does something that only a film could do – it offers you a chance to observe something without disrupting what is going on – a bit like a bird on a rooftop. And it is this fact, along with the unique scenery of this tiny village, that makes this film so extraordinary.
Another big theme in this film is continuity. One life ends while another begins, and the ending could easily be the beginning. The ‘circle of life’ is really apparent in this story, and if nothing else, it offers hope in the harsh light of reality. Humour is as much a part of village life as sadness, and the goats are just a delight to observe. There is virtually no music in the entire film – instead, we listen to birds tweet, villagers talk, and many, many goats. The ringing of the goats’ bells is as memorable as the old man’s gait as he struggles with his illness. The sadness in this film real, just like the goats and dogs and trees and birds. ‘Le quattro volte’ is as real as cinema can be. It will take you onto a path you might never have walked on, had it not been for this film, and it will make you re-learn how to watch closely. This film is simple, yet extraordinary, and it just so happens to be that the path it leads you to is one of the most magnificent of its kind.
Antonia Landi for Trisickle.