In a world where most big studio/big name feature films are loud, violent, and boring; "Le Quattro Volte" is a sort of miracle that arrives without warning and continues to live off of the sheer element of surprise. The most shocking element of all might come from the fact that such a good film came from Italy; a country whose cinema began spiraling downwards years - possibly even decades - ago. However, once in a while, something magical and unforgettable comes along; this would be that film.
Read any basic synopsis, or even the back of the DVD, and it might sound like a whimsy fantasy. I cannot deny that it is; "Le Quattro Volte" is majestic and indeed quite whimsical; but sometimes, whimsy is a distraction, and other times, simple pleasure. I think the film, and those who worked so hard on it, understands that we live in harsh times; where complication in narrative style is far too common, and being simplistic is now frowned upon. I guess the reason that "Le Quattro Volte" works traces back to the deliverance of its subjects, themes, and style; it's simple, easy to take, slow-moving, yes, but undeniably beautiful.
Those who don't watch art-house films too often will probably leave the film with little to think about; because by the end, they will have abandoned all enthusiasm. It's a film with the kind of narrative that spoon-feeds those who sit and listen for a while, not much unlike the films we're used to seeing nowadays, but at the same time; you have to be patient and tolerant to fully accept it and take in the experience of seeing it. I liked the quiet, calm, thoughtful nature of the film; I also think it's one of the year's best.
I guess one way to put the story of "Le Quattro Volte" would be to mention that it's a story about the cycle of life; split into three parts. The first part, which is possibly the longest one of all, concerns an aging farmer who is dying from a nasty sickness and cough; and believes he has found a cure - a sort of remedy - through church-floor dust. Eventually, the old man dies, and from his first life, he moves on the next one. He now finds himself trapped in the body of a young goat. We first witness the birth of the child, and then we observe as the days go by, and he is given the gift of growth. One day, the baby finds itself lost from the herd; and it settles down under a large tree. It is implied that soon after, the animal is to perish.
So the final story, as you might guess, involves the tree that the little goat died under. It rests in the forest, and if it had a brain, it might be content; or at least until the villagers nearby come to chop it down, which they do. The tree is taken to their village, where it is put on display in the town square. Finally, it is made into charcoal to create fires for the townsfolk.
I fear I may have spoiled the entire film for you; or maybe it's you who feels that way about my synopsis, which I tried to keep as simple as I possibly could. The truth is that one can't correctly review this film without giving out some basic plot details. I don't feel that such things matter, or at least not in this case. I believe that "Le Quattro Volte" is a special work of art because it fails to follow the rules or conventional narrative approaches that we've come to expect from most movies. I don't love it for its story or its characters; I love it for the long, observant shots, the absence of a soundtrack, and the strong thematic elements that run throughout. Those who scratch their heads over the message should know; there probably isn't one. It is a film that follows the philosophy that the soul can travel from one body to another; and at that, one of the most stunning approaches to life and death I've seen.
A film with this kind of structure isn't going to please everyone in the crowd. It's a movie that most people won't see, for it lacks the proper amount of hype and advertising to get a very large audience, but I saw screw that. What matters is not how much money it will make; especially when it probably wasn't made on a high budget to begin with. I believe what matters is the depth, the thoughts that we have when we watch it, and the quality alone. "Le Quattro Volte" is a great movie. It is pleasant to watch, has a philosophy of its own, and it has intrigued me a great deal. And if that isn't something worth talking about, then I'm not sure what is.