Take down four or five streetlights, remove a scattering of TV antennas, scrape off the asphalt from twisty narrow streets, and the Calabrian mountainside village of Caulonia would look virtually as it did in medieval times. Caulonia and its environs are the setting for native Calabrian Michelangelo Frammartino's enthralling "Le Quattro Volte" (The Four Lives), inspired by the region's great philosopher Pythagoras' belief in four-fold transmigration, which holds that the soul is passed from human to animal to vegetable to mineral.
Perched between fiction and documentary, "Le Quattro Volte" is above all a beautiful and profound evocation of the eternal cycles of life and nature. Frammartino has made this evocation feel all the more powerful by expressing it, not in the familiar explicit changes of season, but through his discovery of the workings of Pythagoras' beliefs in the course of everyday life in Caulonia and in its ancient rituals. One of the filmmaker's key aims is to place man within nature rather at the center of the universe.