If you enjoy films with a clear-cut plot, snappy dialogue and an obvious beginning, middle and end, then you will probably be left mildly mystified by `Le Quattro Volte'. It's very much a movie in the art house tradition, featuring subtle and beguiling filming which reveals beauty in the mundane reality of rural life, as well as in the spectacular landscape which frames each scene.
The product info about Quattro Volte suggests that you'll be watching a film about an elderly goat-herd who is close to death, and that's true in part. But his story forms just one thread of the four themes of QV, where animal, mineral and vegetable are as important to the whole as is the human component. There's no audible dialogue (so no need to worry about suitable subtitles) and at times the progression of the `plot', such as it is, can be a little obscure. Like life itself, the pace meanders through coincidence, happenstance, the interconnected nature of everything, and is punctured with sublime moments of stillness. The soundtrack reinforces the themes: Dog barks, goats bleat, an old man coughs, charcoal crackles, branches sigh in the breeze.
If this all sounds impossibly pompous then don't worry - it's not. The dog and the goats provide delightful scenes which mix charm and humour with a sense of poignant solemnity. We laughed out loud at some of the antics; knowing that the behaviour of the `cute' animals provided a counter-point to the inevitable progression of life unto death - but that didn't make those scenes any less funny. The humans can be ridiculous also: cutting down a giant pine in order to strip its bark and then re-erect in the town square as a fake tree... some religious rituals will never look quite the same again after watching QV.
The filming itself is masterful, too. There's one gob-smacking extended shot which involves Dog trying to attract attention from passers-by while his master lies dying. Dog runs back and forth along the lane, the camera slowly panning *ahead* of his movement, while the goats bleat and their bells chime. The scene ends in a moment of total slapstick, when Dog causes a lorry to roll uncontrolled to crash into the goat pen and release the animals. When you stop chuckling, you understand that this had to happen to allow the goats to witness their master's passing...
There are some segments of QV which drag a little, but very few (although the director got maximum value from the adorable kids playing in the goat-pen). You may well finish watching QV and wonder about how all of it makes sense: it certainly bears discussion and a second or third viewing to understand how all the threads meld together. QV is set in the modern world, but the cobbled streets and whitewashed walls of the Italian village could have been filmed fifty years ago; it speaks of the timelessness of life, death, and rebirth.
Recommended if you enjoy a little uncertainty, and are entertained by visual splendour.