OK, OK, hands up on this one - I didn't see this at my local multiplex. This is an art-house offering, so I boogied on down to Manchester's Cornerhouse cinema to see it.
And why? Well, it just appealed. Apparently based on Pythagorean theories of elemental being and transmigration of souls, featuring practically no dialogue at all and largely 'starring' a kid goat, who could resist?
At this point, I'd usually give a flavour of the plot. But there's hardly any point in the case of Le Quattro Volte, it kind of transcends traditional cinematic notions of plot and storytelling Like Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy or, to a lesser extent Alexander Sukurov's Russian Ark, it inhabits an interzone between traditional storytelling cinema and video art. Think Bill Viola meets Animals Do The Funniest Things!
Filmed entirely in and around a tiny town in director Michelangelo Frammarinto's native Calabria, the camera bears witness to a range of loosely interconnected human and natural phenomena, from a tubercular goatherd's daily routine to the peregrinations of the aforementioned kid goat through to the chopping down of an immense tree and its eventual transformation into charcoal. Frammartino himself has talked about the influence of Pythogoras (a fellow denizen of southern Italy) on the film, particularly the notions of reincarnation through the four states of being: human, mineral, animal and vegetable (the title translates as 'The Four Turns'). There's a surprising amount of Christian imagery in the mix too, though it's seen almost in a natural-historical context. With practically no dialogue, it's all left open to the audience to make what they wish of it.
Sadly though, and I hate to say this - it's just a wee bit dull . That's not to say it won't stay with you after watching - I have a feeling I'll be daydreaming about aspects of this - but actually sitting through it for an hour and a half... it's just kind of boring. And the sound - while interesting inasmuch as it is entirely natural with no score - is irritating: I'll be happy to never hear another bloody cow bell (as opposed to cowbell) for as long as I live.
And the film suffers from a further disadvantage: not since Inland Empire have I been so conscious of a film being shot digitally. Of course it makes for cheaper production, but if ever a film was crying out to be captured on lovely, textured, characterful 35mm film it's Le Quattro Volte. I'd go as far as saying that the use of the non-analogue technology constitutes an intrusion onto the film's central thesis. Sorry if that sounds a bit geeky - but I like my movies to be beautiful, and this is not as beautiful as it should have been.
An oddity, then, and a fairly pretentious one at that. It's noble, unusual and curious yet not particularly entertaining - but then it's not really meant as entertainment.