Sometimes a film can be hypnotic, but not many are. With hypnotic I do not mean a picture that can make you forget about the world around you, or even suck you into a filmic world. Lots of films can do that, but not many can rock their audience to a sub conscious level, as if they were dreaming. The slow paced and poetic imagery of Le Quattro Volte does have that power. Director Michelangelo Frammartino uses his camera as an all seeing eye over the landscapes of Calabria, a southern region of Italy where time still is running slowly. In this place he captures the journey of a soul through four different stages.
Frammartino’s philosophy is that man in Calabria is still equal to animals, plants and minerals. One soul travels through these four levels, in that order. In this film it starts with a goatherd, who’s physique is as ridgy as the world he lives in. Times of labour have made him frail and old. His life is simple and traditional and he believes in archaic rituals still. The man is sick, but he finds a medicine for his ails in the dust of an old church floor. This herd is not the main character though, since Le Quattro Volte has none. Possibly not even the unseen soul that passes on from the herd to a newborn goat, to a majestic tree and eventually to traditionally made charcoal for the completion of its journey.
The director documents Calabria from a great distance. Close ups are only used when he deems it necessary to explore his characters from nearby. In that case he lets the camera get nearer and sometimes even extremely near, but intimate moments like those are rare. In long takes Le Quattro Volte goes by like a drifting cloud, slowly changing but never losing form. Some long takes truly show a master at work and one frame can display multiple actions since the camera is merely observing Calabria as time eases by. Because the observation takes place form such a distance, this film has no need for speech. Music is missing as well, as it would only distract from the images. Sound effects of the region are audible though, with some sounds that hint to a storyline. Even so, most of the times the viewer has to discover his own story. Frammartino will only guide the viewer through the landscapes along with the soul. It is a journey worth experiencing, as this is one of the best films 2010 had to offer.