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Now what is attraction of watching goats walk through an Italian landscape, funerals snaking through the village main road, Good Friday processions following that same path, char burners preparing to pile up wood, goat herders sitting and smoking, snails invading a kitchen table? It is fabulously beautiful! Technically not a silent movie, yet there is no dialogue. It just is not necessary, because what people are doing mostly requires no talk: herding goats (the goats do a lot of talking, though), chopping  wood, waiting for death to arrive. We watch one year’s full cycle of life, we see birth and death, we witness the drama of a little goat getting lost, of the Roman soldiers almost arriving too late for their passion play, and of the stand-off between a dog and a kid that was left behind. We see this filmed with an almost completely static camera, sometimes taking in as much as the whole village in one shot, not zooming in on the details that surely are there to admire, but rather staying back, watching everything with the same level of attention, as if stating that whatever exists deserves the same right to be observed, whether it moves and talks or whether it is a street corner that does not do a thing apart from hiding what’s behind. The camera is sucking in the beauty of the hills, of the trees, of the smoke coming out of the burning charcoal, of the people’s faces. It is one big effort in meditation, and if anybody dares to think that this could be boring: I watched it between 3am and 5am in the morning, and never even lost a thought about getting tired.

After reading Philip French’ review, I also seem to understand the film’s title and how it relates to what we see on the screen. If Pythagoras claims that each of us has four lives within us (the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the human), then it is not surprising that the director treats everything he sees with an equal level of admiration. Also read the NYT review by A.O. Scott.

It might be a case of pretentious delusion, but I really think this is the best film I have seen since… need to reorganize my ranking list…

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