Le Quattro Volte Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino

[Invisible Film; 2010]

Styles: drama, or something
Others: Into Great Silence

It’s hard to begin to discuss Le Quattro Volte — not because it’s closed, but because to implicate it in a critical project is to create distance with a much less marvelous arithmetic than that of the ratios in the film itself. I have a stock of concepts and keywords ready — migration, transmigration, circularity, consonance, resonance, unity — but I’m not sure I should draw from it. To make an argument about the film fails the experience of its solemn silence and ludic stillness.

There isn’t a single line of dialogue in the entirety of the film’s 88 minutes. The human is reduced to topology. A tiny ant crawls across the face of an elderly goatherd as he squats among the grasses. A Catholic procession reenacts and spectates Christ bearing the cross, but the camera’s attention moves back and forth along the road to witness a dog herding a child, to witness…

This is a spiritual film in the sense of spirit as an antidote or foil for the polis. There is no politics without a human society. The goat herd is a society, replete with hierarchy, ritual, language, loss. The tree too has its tragedy and its comedy. But there is none of the mess of the human, and as such Le Quattro Volte can revel in the pristine beauty of pure phenomena. Revelation and interpretation are too violent for the delicate fractals of divine structure.

My viewing companion remarked on what she called the film’s “rhyming images.” Besides studious composition and inspired cinematography, the richness of the film’s formal development is in the echoes traversing its planes in all directions. The four seasons converge with the passage of the soul through the four elements. The same shot that appears first as a transition will, upon reiteration, retrospect.

I’m happy to succumb to the temptation to attribute anthropomorphic predicates to the film itself. I’m uncomfortable, however, with the ethical implications of an anti-political sensibility that aspires to (and achieves) formal perfection. The audience appreciates, but the work is already done. Is beauty enough? This is the meaning of temptation.

A joyous art, a beautiful art, a passionate art: Le Quattro Volte demonstrates the incompletability of totality, the necessity of lack. Its finished structure revolves around an aporia: it denies the recognition of shit. It refuses the question, “What is to be done?” It demands supplemental ugliness. This review, for instance. The human, more generally.

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