Talking Pictures

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Le Quattro Volte

Posted by keith1942 on March 26, 2011

Italy / Germany / Switzerland 2010.  minutes, colour with  [a few] subtitles.


The title translates as ‘the four times’, and presents a pastoral cycle where dialogue is redundant and we see and hear people as they live and work. The film is set in a village in Calabria, at the lowest point of the Italian peninsula. This is place of wooded hills with the village set on a stark promontory and modern society seems a long way away. I loved this film, with its gradual pace, at times witty observation and obvious empathy for the place and the people.

The sense of a cycle is created by the film opening and closing in a charcoal kiln. In between we meet an elderly goatherd. Every day he takes his flock to pasture in the hills, accompanied by his dog. The man has some ailment for which he takes a traditional remedy, partly religious. His illness results in the sheep dog guarding the goat pen in his absence which leads to a delightfully funny sequence as the villagers celebrate what is [apparently] Good Friday.

Next we meet a baby goat born into the herd. On his first trip out into the hills the young goat strays and finally takes shelter under a tall tree as darkness falls. Later in the cycle the tree is felled, stripped and transported to the village where it is the focus of a traditional celebration. This includes young men demonstrating their virility climbing the pole. Finally the timber from the pole provides the centre of the fire in the charcoal kiln. The cycle carries on, man, animals and nature experiencing birth, death and rebirth.

The film uses predominantly long shots and long takes, creating the sense of the slow, gradual change and development. There is much sound but it is the sounds of life and action rather than a spoken language that matters. I was completely absorbed by this simple observation of a particular and distinctive world. My only [mild] complaint was that whilst we know what has happened to the goatherd, the goat and the tree, we are left uncertain as to the fate of Vuk, the sheepdog. I hope he had a comfortable retirement home.



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