The Four Times (2010, Michelangelo Frammartino)

The trailer and the IMDB plot summary are both slightly misleading – one gives the movie a narrator, an explicit theme of rebirth and the other gives it a human lead character and a story setup. The movie itself has none of these things, and requires none. The advertising was all for naught anyway – it was just me and one other guy on opening night at the plaza.

The trailer narration is useful – explains that the movie is illustrating the reincarnation theory of Pythagoras (a native of the area where the film was shot) which claims that each person has lived before as a mineral, a plant, an animal. The film is full of births and deaths – quiet, no dialogue or narration at all, but I found it beautiful and interesting, and meditative without being boring.

In order, as far as I remember it. Guy is on a steaming rock pile, slapping it with a shovel. A shepherd is taking his goats out to pasture, seems to have trouble walking home. That night he mixes some powder with water and drinks it before bed. Next day, collects snails in a pail, tries to fashion a lid so they won’t escape. Goes to church where he trades a bottle of milk to a woman for a packet of dust, which she has swept up from the floor. That day in the field he loses the packet, and is distressed about it when he gets home, goes to church but nobody answers. Next morning is the most impressive long-take I’ve seen all year. The camera is across the street from the man’s house, facing it, above the fenced-in pen where the goats are kept. A passion play is coming down the street, and some late-arriving centurions park across the street, propping their car tire with a rock. After the parade goes by, a boy lagging behind is threatened by the shepherd’s dog, distracts the dog by throwing rocks, dog grabs the one under the car, car rolls into the fence freeing all the goats. I can’t imagine wanting to coordinate a ten-minute shot with a cast of sixty townspeople in which the lead actors are a young child and a dog. Anyway, the shepherd is discovered dead, the goats rampaging through his house. A couple of new guys are taking care of the goats, but the movie doesn’t linger on them, takes the goats’ point of view for a while. We see a goat give birth (this is why Katy didn’t want to see the movie), the small goats play inside while the grown ones go to pasture, and finally when they’re old enough the small ones tag along – but one gets lost, presumably freezes to death under a tree. The tree is cut down, dragged into town and lifted up for some kind of festival, then taken down, chopped to bits and given to the coal man. He arranges the wood in a very orderly pile, covers it and sets alight, tamping it down from above to make coal. And that’s where we came in.

“The only professional used in the film, claims Frammartino, was the dog.”

Frammartino also made a movie called The Gift, which I must find sometime.