Animal Agency in Le Quattro Volte
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McMahon, L. (2015). Animal Agency in Le Quattro Volte. Screen, 56 108-118. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjv006
Le Quattro Volte (2010) – translated as ‘The Four Turns’ – tracks what the director Michelangelo Frammartino describes as ‘the journey of a soul’ through Pythagorean processes of transmigration, as the narrative focus shifts from an elderly goatherd to a kid goat to a tree to a batch of charcoal. While Le Quattro Volte thus extends its attention across human, animal, vegetable and mineral realms, I wish to focus in this essay on the nonhuman animals – the dog, goats, ants and snails – that populate the film. Le Quattro Volte might appear to invest uncritically in an image of pastoral idyll through its nostalgic focus on farming practices in Calabria (the region of Italy in which the film is set), thereby undermining any progressive positioning of animals as agents or political beings. Yet while Le Quattro Volte takes risks, not only in its nostalgic rural vision but also in its mystical positioning of life cycles, the film balances this, I argue here, with a democratizing mode of human-animal representation. Drawing on the work of Jane Bennett, I explore questions of animal agency in the context of what I call Frammartino’s ‘horizontalist’ aesthetics – a mode of cinematic presentation that works against speciesist hierarchies of being. I read questions of animal agency, objectification and performance both within and against this horizontalist aesthetics in order to consider Le Quattro Volte’s cinematic and democratic re-imagining of cross-species relationality.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjv006
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/246391