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Le Quattro Volte

A reflective film about an elderly Calabrian goatherd and his animals.

"The film's beauty, wit and charm come as a breath of fresh air" (Sight and Sound). "Witty, wonderous and profound" (Wendy Ide, the Times) "This delightful film has won hearts and minds" (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian). "An extraordinay achievement) (Philip French, The Observer).


Le Quattro Volte, or The Four Times, is almost entirely wordless; it is slow, precise, with a sense of the rise and fall of the seasons and the rhythm of the countryside. The scene is Calabria in southern Italy, in a medieval village, and for the first hour of so, the action could be taking place at any time over the past couple of centuries. Only the final section definitely locates it in the present day.

An old shepherd (Giuseppe Fuda) tends to his goats, who roam mesmerically all over the landscape and all over the screen. Their shepherd is dying, and when he slumps down or collapses in a field or woodland, one of the goats returns, as if to check on him. The goats are tending to him.
The camera traces the rugged, sun-baked horizon in the same way that it traces the lines of the shepherd's careworn face. An ant crawls up his cheek, like a goat on a hill in long-shot. The shepherd is racked by a terrible cough and every night, he drinks some sort of powdered infusion. Later, we find that this powder is not medicine, but dust from the church floor, which he apparently credits with supernatural qualities. The dust is clearly making the shepherd's cough worse. Perhaps it has actually caused it in the first place.
Animals are a bit of a rarity in film, nowadays they are often digitalised fakes. These animals are the real thing: they take the leading roles, while the humans are largely in the background. This deeply affecting film has a stillness and a reverence to it, every shot framed and composed with outstanding judgment.

Subpages (1): Still Walking
Film Friday,
8 Nov 2011, 05:47