The theme for our May discussion films was The Universe in Three Acts, and each of our three films illustrate different approaches to trying to understand some of the fundamental truths about the universe in which we live. In this essay I discuss an approach employed in the film, Le Quattro Volte (2010). In earlier commentaries I discussed an empirical approach to truth as taken by the scientists depicted in the documentary, Particle Fever (2013), and a mathematical approach to discovering fundamental truths as depicted in the fictional film Pi (1998).
Le Quattro Volte (2010) adopts a metaphysical, quasi-religious approach to universal truths. It takes the form of an enigmatic fable involving four elements: human, animal, vegetable, mineral. The style is that of Slow Cinema. There is no dialogue. Casual viewing provides a succession of striking images of seemingly mundane every-day events happening in a small village in Italy. More careful viewing reveals an intricate structure, a causal chain of events that play out seamlessly from beginning to end. But the end is also the beginning. The film begins and ends with images of smoke rising, an act of creation formed out of destruction of some other element. The truths about the universe depicted in this film do not fall along a linear path. They form a large circular arc that ends where it begins, in an endless circle of creation.
I don’t think any words can adequately express what is portrayed in this delightful, elegant, profound, and exquisitely beautiful film. It is a film that needs to be experienced — and at least for me, evoked a reflection on the awe and wonder of the universe in which we live.