Le Quattro Volte
Directed by Michelangelo Frammartino
The last half year has seen a relative deluge of art films concerning the reincarnation or transmigration of souls: Enter the Void, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and now Le Quattro Volte, the sophomore feature of Italian writer-director Michelangelo Frammartino. More accessible than Uncle Boonmee and far less abrasive (or miserable) than Void, Le Quattro Volte ("The Four Times") suggests a metaphysical continuum between a dying shepherd, an abandoned newborn goat, a felled mountain tree, and the smoke generated from that same tree after it's been chopped into timber. "Suggests" is the operative word here because Frammartino stays resolutely on the outside of material processes—never entering or evoking the inner world of the animals, vegetables, and minerals that each pass into the next, and even foregoing dialogue that would sully the quotidian sounds of the rural village amidst which such marvels of conversion take place—and yet nonetheless provides an intimate feeling for their earthly magic.
Volte, in other words, undoubtedly achieves a sort of detached wonder. It is meticulously and lovingly shot, consistently and engagingly paced, and simultaneously somber and whimsical in its depiction of the forgotten bonds that forge the cosmos. Demonstrating this point is the film's centerpiece, an epic long take capturing the barnyard slapstick that unfolds around the village's annual passion play—Volte ultimately proposes that decay and regeneration transform life on a quietly molecular level, even as human ritual perpetuates only limited, egocentric understandings of the universe. But as if to indulge the very act he mocks, Frammartino wedges this observation into an increasingly predictable "Circle of Life" narrative that reduces an eerie journey of dissolution to cheap karmic irony. The mysteries of nature deserve slightly better than that.
Opens March 30