Nosce Te Ipsum: Le Quattro Volte

Nosce Te Ipsum: Le Quattro Volte

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
New Wave Films 

Release date: May 27th, 2011
Certificate (UK): U
Running time: 88 minutes

Writer and director: Michelangelo Frammartino

Cast: Giuseppe Fuda, Bruno Timpano, Nazareno Timpano

Fractions and long multiplication were never a problem. Trigonometry and long division on the other hand, well, they took a bit longer. When it came to Pythagorean Theorem, I never really got started, but for the first time in my life I’ve finally come to understand something from this 6th century BC Greek philosopher and mathematician.

Pythagoras once wrote about how we can get to know ourselves. He explained that there are four parts within us, each different from the other, but making up the whole perfectly and in order to know ourselves we must first know these four elements. This is harmoniously demonstrated in Frammartino’s film and the director tells it much better than I ever could when he says:

Le Quattro Volte

“Each of us has four lives inside us which fit into one another. Man is mineral because his skeleton is made of salt; man is also vegetable because his blood flows like sap; he is animal in as much he is endowed with motility and knowledge of the outside world. Finally, man is human because he has the gifts of will and reason. Thus, we must know ourselves four times.”

Set high in the Calabrian hills in southern Italy, Le Quattro Volte introduces us to an elderly goat herder (Giuseppe Fuda) who is nearing the end of his days. Together with his dog, he take cares of his herd and later he visits a cleaning lady who works in the church. In exchange for a bottle of goat’s milk, she gives him a pile of dust swept up from the church floor.

Le Quattro Volte

The dust, according to age-old beliefs and customs, has healing powers and so he mixes it with his water to remedy his aches and pains, but on this particular day, he loses the packet while out with the animals. When he gets home he realises its gone but it’s late at night and there’s no one at the church. The goat herder lies in his bed dying the next day.

At the same time a baby goat is born and the cycle of life pushes on. He is slower than the rest of the flock and soon loses his way, falling into a ditch in the middle of the forest. Unable to climb out, he bleats for help, but neither the new shepherd, nor his dog, hear him. He is forced to spend the night alone beside a majestic fir tree, sheltering beneath its leafy branches.

Le Quattro Volte

Le Quattro Volte’s depiction of traditions and long-held beliefs in a village that has remained untouched by time is achingly beautiful, poetic and spell-binding. Its all too deceptive simplicity masks layers upon layers of symbolism, ideas and a philosophy that washed over me in such a way that it brought me to verge of tears.

Frammartino has woven together a story that defies the norm; freeing us from the dogma which dictates that humans should occupy the leading role in a story or that it should be littered with dialogue and banter to tell us something. Clearly this is not the case and it’s quite an accomplishment, but not only in filmmaking and storytelling. It does more than just entertain; Le Quattro Volte has that rarest of things among films – truth.

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