Every semester the Nanovic Institute organizes a European film series which galvanizes what has come to be a sizable audience. Last semester, the series was guest curated by film producer Leslee Udwin (a friend of the Institute) and focused on Europe, Beyond Borders. This semester, as is our practice every other semester, we pull together a Best of Recent European Film to keep the series fresh and current.
The first film of this semester was Michelangelo Frammartino’s QUATTRO VOLTE (“The Four Times”).
ND Italianists, always in piazza, were out in full force for this one. John Welle (Professor of Italian) gave a gentle introduction which set the tone for this unusual film, which is nearly silent, poetic, and has no human dialogue. Frammartino’s use of Pythagoras’s theory of the fourfold transmigration of the soul (hence the title) made me care about the shepherd, the sheep, the tree, and (yes) charcoal. How is this possible? By following how one is shown to mingle with the other.
There is something medieval about this film, not only in its intuition of the Great Chain of Being, but also in its cinematography. Several fixed-camera shots are composed so that you follow movement on the screen as if you were following a narrative placed on a two-dimensional surface, as in a gothic painting. Frammartino’s shots are beautifully composed. I wouldn’t be surprised if many were consciously or unconsciously arranged in Golden Sections. (He does have a background in architecture.) You have to watch the film in a different way. It is organized by repetition. Props to Frammartino for taking these kinds of risks.
It’s great for students looking for fresh ways of thinking about the kind of experience one can have in a cinema.