Wednesday 20 July 2011


(Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010)

Slightly challenging in its nonchalant dismissal of traditional narrative, Frammartino's film is a unique piece. Part documentary, part poem, part essay, part movie, it coolly and precisely observes some characters around an Italian mountain village. Only one of those characters is human; an old goat farmer we follow for the first reel, observing his everyday routine. He walks his goats to a pasture, sits beneath a tree, brings them home, trades goats milk for dust from the town church, which he dissolves into a glass before bed at night, collects snails. The soundtrack is the bells round the necks of the goats and his worsening cough. The second character is a calf, born to one of his goats after his death, and whose early existence in sheds and upon mountainsides we witness. Then a huge fir tree becomes our lead, chopped down for use in a Spring festival, made into charcoal, and finally transformed into smoke from a village chimney. The goat farmers dog is the comic relief, responsible for a surprisingly deft comic sequence observed by Frammartino's camera from on high involving a truck, a hillside and a fence.
The camera is the real star here however, exquisitely capturing the skies above the town and the mountains through changing seasons, beautifully picking out a twisting swirl of dust motes turning in the light from a window in the gloom of a church, rarely moving, generally perfectly placed. The films attractive simplicity and even pacing invite the viewer to interpret it however they wish, and indeed one could wrest big statements about nature, time and space and life and death from its content. It is undeniably interested in all those themes and studies each to one extent or other. But it all seems too obvious, polite and even slightly too inarticulate to be regarded as profound, but it is the sort of film which becomes hypnotic if you surrender to its unique rhythm, and it is beautiful, funny, and never less than interesting.

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