Language Hat was kind enough to point out a film being shown at the New York Film Festival, at Lincoln Center, called Le Quattro Volte — “Four Times”, according to google, although there may be other meanings.  It looks quite wonderful, and includes four of my favourite subjects and objects: charcoal, Italy, trees and goats — well, five, if you include the NY Times’s comment that its humour is reminiscent of Jacques Tati’s films.

I don’t know whether it will ever be distributed in  Norway though I saw somewhere that showings are planned elsewhere in Europe; in the meantime, unless you’re in New York, Italy or Cannes, you’ll have to be satisfied with the two short trailers at the European distributor’s site (click on the film there).

Michelangelo Frammartino, the film’s director:

“In Calabria, nature is not hierarchical; all beings have a soul. You can see it when you look into an animal’s eyes. You can hear it in the sound made by charcoal, which sings as if it had its own voice.  You can see it in the tall fir tree swaying in the wind, summoning us all to its side.”

Here’s a synopsis:

In the back-country of Calabria, in the Apennine mountains of southern Italy, an old shepherd leads his flock of goats to pasture along disused hillside paths. Every morning, the church housekeeper trades a handful of church dust for some of the shepherd’s fresh milk. Every evening, the elderly shepherd dissolves the “magic” powder in water and drinks this mixture as a remedy for his aches and pains. One day he doesn’t show up for their trade, and the next day he dies in his bed while the goats keep vigil.

A kid takes his first steps, but he is slower than the rest of the flock and falls behind. He falls into a ditch in the middle of the forest. Unable to climb out, he bleats for help, but neither the shepherd nor his dog hear him. The flock leaves the kid in their wake, leaving him to his fate. When he finally emerges from the ditch, he finds that he is alone. He wanders aimlessly until, as night begins to fall, he stumbles upon a majestic fir tree, where he seeks shelter.

The following spring, the village residents come to fell this tree for the annual “Pita” festivities that have taken place there for centuries. They saw off its branches and carry its stately trunk back to the village where it is erected in the main square.

Once the village festivities are over, the trunk of the fir tree is sold to charcoal burners. It is then cut into logs and used to build the hearth and chimney of the charcoal kiln; it will also be burned  to make fuel. The kiln, covered in straw and clay, is lit and begins to smoke. Once the fire has gone out, this ancient technique, passed down from generation to generation, will have transformed the living vegetable matter of the wood into an inert mineral, brittle and easily crumbled: charcoal.

I  particularly liked this still from the film (there are four others here):

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