This review is from: Le Quattro Volte [DVD] (DVD)
This truly unique and award winning film form the most promising, young, Italian filmmaker, Michelangelo Frammartino is a stunningly shot and spellbinding meditation of largely eventless life in a quiet, mountainous village in Calabria. Made with a non-professional cast that includes domestic and farm animals and shot entirely in natural light, the film amounts to one of the greatest achievements in modern cinema, and I rate this five our of five.
The village in focus is medieval in its character and looks hardly changed for millennia. And, it does not seem to change at all through the duration of the film. Even the landscape appears to lay inanimate, with only the passing clouds, movement of sunlight, activities of the villagers and their animals, and seasonal changes punctuating what comes across as a life portrait.
Frammartino deploys the most ingenious technique to capture this desolate way of life, by using very carefully composed shots that last from 10 seconds at the shortest to several minutes in others. In most cases, the camera firmly holds its position, allowing life to move about their daily activities, still staying put when the action moves out of view, but instead, judiciously employing the sound to conclude the particular event captured. These still shots that we see earlier in the film are reused again and again in exactly the same location and position, giving us a series of familiar, vantage points of the village, so that in each repeated shot, we find a different village activity occurring. The activities of the village are rarely exciting but are a series of regular and weekly events such as someone delivering charcoal or villagers going to the church on a Sunday.
But when something out of the ordinary happens, it is as exciting as a couple of Hollywood, action blockbusters, because of the rarity of such events in this remote place. The camera finally moves to capture some of these rare events, but still keeping its firm grip on the narrative style by holding its latitude constant, while elegantly spanning back and forth to follow the action.
The, sometimes tragic and sometimes hilarious, but always sobering and engaging, result of this unique style of filming is that the viewer feels empowered to be the one who holds the camera, a reticent and non-interfering super-being, who truly and patiently cares about the life in this village, both human and otherwise. It is a truly unique cinematic experience that I have never treasured before, but I have seen an Indian film by the great experimental director Mani Kaul [`Uski Roti` (1969)], which, if I remember right, explores the same technique for the first time in cinema history.
As you would expect, there is no music score to this movie, the music being the sounds of the village that are an essential an integral part of the narrative.
This is a masterpiece of modern cinema and, above all is a truly human creation of art.