The Four Times

Director: Michelangelo Frammartino

Country: Italy, Germany, Switzerland

Year: 2010

Duration: 88 min

Languages: silent, subtitled in English

Original name: Le quattro volte

Category: , ,

Should you make the mistake of thinking you have seen it all, here is something thoroughly original: a favourite of the festival circuit when it was released, Michelangelo Frammartino’s quasi-documentary The Four Times. It is a unique piece of work; a funny, peculiarly formed film about a village in Calabria, ”the toe of the boot of Italy.” This ”dog and goat film” has won many awards, including the same Palm Dog Award that Aki Kaurismäki has received.

Frammartino probes the relationship between man and nature. The title of the film derives from a theory by Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician who once lived in the area. The four intertwining episodes of the film seek connections between animals (the birth of a goat), humans (the dying shepherd), plants (the tree ritual in the village), and minerals (the making of charcoal). Everything begins with the burning charcoal and ends with smoke rising from the chimney.

Nevertheless, The Four Times is far from dry and theoretical documentation, but rather an entertaining and poetically fascinating journey into a secluded mountain village. In the most virtuoso-like sequence of this film that defies categorisation, a dog larks about among the goats in the village centre. The sparse dialogue, delivered in the local dialect, has no need to be translated.

”Grave, beautiful, austerely comic, and casually metempsychotic, The Four Times is one of the wiggiest nature documentaries-or almost-documentaries ever made,” praises Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, who visited MSFF in 2001.

Timo Malmi