MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Sitting on Paul Smith designed sofas whilst watching an almost-silent Italian arthouse film has got to be up there with some of my most sophisticated evenings of cinema. Le Quattro Volte could have easily fallen into the trap of being slightly pretentious and extremely annoying. It might not be quite as poignant as it could have been, but it rather floats across the screen gently and elegantly without needing to overplay its themes and preach any particular message or emotion.
The film begins by following an elderly shepherd on his last days in the tranquil, medieval Italian village of Calabria. Nothing is explained, in fact the film is entirely devoid of dialogue but rather the viewer watches the man’s life slowly unfold amidst the transiency of nature. His behavior is documented silently to bring to life a man passing through time as we enjoy his habits such as mixing the dust from the church floor with water to create his own medicine. The film passes from the old man to his heard of goats. The quirks of the animals are captured beautifully, with long single shots bringing the creatures to life. The animals are probably the stars of the film and it must have taken a remarkable length of filming to create such inspiring shots. There’s a fluidity of motion that feels somewhat poetic as the narrative drifts from the goat, to a single goat, to the tree it lays beneath. Man, animal, and nature are all existing as one.
Now, of course the most important question to ask about any slow moving, near-silent Italian film about man’s relationship with nature is quite clearly: is it boring? I would be lying if my mind didn’t drift, but I would also be lying if I didn’t feel relaxed and find the experience quite peaceful. There’s something warmly soothing about Le Quattro Volte. It probably could have made the same journey in less time, but despite the lack of conventional action it doesn’t particularly outstay its welcome. It might not be many people’s first choice for a night out to the movies, but it makes a good antidote to the hectic, craziness of life and much of modern cinema.
La Quattro Volte is out now across the world. Running time: 88 mins. Certificate U (UK).
Review By David Rank