Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trees into logs into smoke

Last night I watched Michelangelo Frammartino's film Le Quattro Volte on DVD and have been boring people all day trying to convince them how wonderful it is.  Reviewing it last year in The Independent, Jonathan Romney wrote that Le Quattro Volte 'will set you musing on matters natural and metaphysical, using little more than some Calabrian hillsides, a stack of logs, some snails and a herd of goats – and barely a syllable of dialogue. The film is an extraordinary achievement – beautiful, moving, mysterious, and, at times, extremely funny. In its self-effacing way, it's nothing short of a miracle – one of those rare works that break all the rules about what cinema "should" be in order to demonstrate what it can be.'  He goes on to explain that 'the title – literally, the four "turns"or "phases" – refers to the world as described by Pythagorean philosophy, with its theory of a cycle of eternal transformation and reincarnation. What this means in practice is that Le Quattro Volte isn't about story, or character, or even action. Rather, this is a contemplative film about things changing into other things – like trees into logs into smoke – and about the cycle of natural changes, the internal clock by which the universe keeps time.'

In an interview for the DVD, Frammartino said, "I've tried to make the landscape the protagonist.  I tried not to use it simply as background but to make it become something more important, to bring it out and elevate it to the level of protagonist.  For example, in the film there's a moment in the first part, when our protagonist is still a man, an old shepherd.  He's lying in the grass minding his own business when an ant starts walking over his face, over his cheekbones and up towards his eyes.  The ant steals the scene and the man's face, in close-up, becomes a landscape.  There's this reversal of roles.  And then, a few scenes later, there's a landscape with the roofs of the village and a big tree emerging, the protagonist of the scene, with a little man climbing up it, as tiny as an ant.  The man is like an insect and the landscape reminds us of a man's face.  This game, this shifting of levels, which can provoke laughter, I've tried to employ it in the relationship between close-up and landscape, this game of scale, this reversal of importance."

1 comment:

Mike C. said...

Irresistible trailer -- straight in my Amazon basket. Thanks, Plinius.