Le Quattro Volte by Michelangelo Frammartino

The list of films prompted by the writings of Pythagoras must surely be brief. Indeed, were it comprised of nothing but this remarkable debut from Milanese filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino, it would still represent a formidable tribute.

Taking the ancient Greek thinker’s notion of ‘transmigration’ – that is, the soul’s passage through the four stages of earthly being: human, animal, plant, mineral – as its throughline, Frammartino’s playful docudrama details the life cycle in and around a rustic community in contemporary Calabria.

Here, dust swept from a church floor is ingested by an elderly goatherd for its believed remedial properties, and the four-legged stock are themselves delightfully framed as the farmyard’s natural physical comics.

Frammartino’s camera has a way of prefiguring activity – compositions are often created for reasons that are not instantly obvious, only for something marvellous or surprising to enter the frame, which lends proceedings a droll determinist wit. With this, Frammartino announces himself as a readymade master – simply put, Le Quattro Volte is a near-masterpiece.

Gerard Elson