Michelangelo Frammartino 2010 film Le Quattro Volte seems to be an interpretation of Pythagoras' ideas as to how the soul can exist within human, animal, vegetable or mineral set to film. The story, such as it is, follows the exploits of a goat herder in the rural Italian region of Calabria. The movie basically follows the aging man as he essentially passes things on from himself to a newborn baby goat and then to a fir tree before finally moving to a kiln (and therefore basically repeating the cycle philosophized by Pythagoras so many centuries ago).
As Frammartino's unusually poetic film plays out over its eighty-eight minute running time, we're treated to some emotionally stirring cinematography that very effectively captures the natural beauty of the small village the goat herder calls home. From the floor of the church where he gather the dust with which he makes his own odd homemade medicine (thinking it could cure his terminal illness) to the more desolate scenes involving something as simple as a young goat out on some rural, hilly terrain Le Quattro Volte is a quietly beautiful film but not one without a sense of humor to it. Something so simple as a sheep dog wandering into and subsequently stopping an important Easter procession through the town lets us take amusement in the situations at hand while the voyage of a single ant through much of the film not so randomly ties things together in an interesting but entirely fitting way.
Ultimately the film is one about inevitability and, not surprisingly, mortality - the fleetingness of life, perhaps or maybe more literally about how so many things on this planet wind up equal in the end, where everything basically becomes a mineral. It might sound morbid, and in a certain sense it is, but Le Quattro Volte isn't a dark film, rather, it's a picture made by someone who seems accepting of the end that awaits everything on the planet. The fact that all of this happens sans dialogue is somehow more appropriate both in terms of message and style - here the visuals say more than dialogue could anyway, with actors both human and animal captured in completely believable roles by Frammartino and his crew.
Given the narrative and very structure of the film, it should go without saying that those looking for a fast paced film full of flashy editing and all the action, adventure and snappy dialogue you'd expect from Hollywood will probably walk away from this one not so much disappointed as confused. That said, this is a pretty rewarding film if you want to invest enough of yourself into a viewing to actually put some thought into it. There's a cinema verite/faux documentary approach to the picture that puts you in the moment right alongside our hero while at the same time keeping you confined to the role of observer. There are moments of surrealism peppered in with the more traditional shots that serve to remind us that there's very much a craftsman at the helm while clever tricks like shooting the scenes involving a kid at his eye level and focusing just long enough on any one aspect of the film to have an impact (without overdoing it) keep things far more watchable and interesting than they realistically have any right to be. If the devil is in the details, Frammartino has sold his soul as this is very much a film concerned with details, particularly the kind we tend to overlook in our day to day lives. And if that doesn't sell you, well, this is the best film made about goats to have come along in the last decade at least - so it's got that going for it too.
Lorber's AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer for Le Quattro Volte is a good one, offering up nice detail while still maintaining a certain stylistic softness that is inherent in the photography. That's not to say that you won't be able to take in the lines on our hero's weathered face or appreciate the furry texture of his companions, but it doesn't jump out at you the way some high definition content can, and in the context of the story being told here, that's not a bad thing. This definitely trumps what standard definition can bring to the table, however, with nice, natural color reproduction and strong, solid black levels highlighting the beautiful photography that makes up the film. The image is clean and clear and there aren't any obvious problems with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues to complain about either. All in all, the movie looks very good here and you definitely get the impression that it looks just as it should.
Dolby TrueHD options are provided in 5.1 and 2.0 flavors, with the 5.1 edging out the other mix by spreading the score and effects around just a little more effectively. There isn't really any dialogue in the movie, so this is mostly a mix made of music and ambient noise, but it is well crafted and there is some welcome directionality present throughout the movie. It's a simple mix, but again, it suits the tone of the movie very well.
Supplements are disappointingly slim on this disc, limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Lorber releases, a small still gallery, menus and chapter stops.
More extras would have been absolutely welcome, but on the flip side of that coin is that the near barebones nature of the release somehow suits the movie. Interpret that as you will, but regardless, Le Quattro Volte looks and sounds very good on this Blu-ray. As to the film itself? It's far more fascinating than a film about a goat herder should be - it's simultaneously funny, sad, beautiful and probably most importantly, thought provoking. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.