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Michelangelo Frammartino • Director

“A political film on the relationship between man and nature”


- Interview at the Cannes Film Festival 2010 with the Italian director after the presentation of The Four Times in the Directors' Fortnight

Co-produced by Italy, Germany and Switzerland, The Four Times [+see also:
film review
interview: Michelangelo Frammartino
interview: Savina Neirotti
film profile
by Michelangelo Frammartino (being released in Italy on May 28 by Cinecittà Luce - see article) was a long time in the making. "It took us almost five years to shoot the film, and it was plagued with problems. Then we returned to Calabria, where the film is set, various times, to film the tree in different seasons". The giant fir is one of protagonists of this extraordinary film, along with an old goat herder, a baby goat and a meters-tall mound of coal.

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Nature plays a fundamental role in you film, which was selected for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.
Michelangelo Frammartino: It is a film about the bond between man and nature. Cinema is one of those tools through which man is placed at the centre. So cinema must leave man less alone. We tried to bring out that which usually comprises the background of cinema and culture: animals, plant, objects. They emerge in the film’s main sequence, and take over the scene, in an attempt to create a new alliance with man, a new balance.

The story is told through the environment, through the images themselves.
The challenge of the film was to have a unique, invisible character. There are four protagonists, the goat herder, a baby goat, a tree and the coal, but actually the true protagonist is a soul. We filmed bodies to extract this inner presence. It is a film of surfaces, but made with the determination and conviction that the camera can capture an essence.

Will audiences be able to gather this essence?
The film is made up of simple, almost primitive images. You have to make an effort to move your head, search for all the pieces in the image. You have to become a cameraman in a way, and design your landscapes; or an editor, to put the film together. The viewers have to “finish” the film, they have to take on this responsibility.

In the land of contradictions that is Calabria, you made a choice among these contradictions.
Yes, if you venture into its hinterlands, you find ancient and fascinating traditions. If you ask the people of Alessandria why they celebrate the tree festival, they tell you “It’s always been done.” The significance lies behind that, you have to search for it.

There are also modern elements.
You can work on a theme or work through cinematic languages, modifying them, through which you can then "expose" things. Because certain audience dependencies derive from seemingly innocuous languages. There are those who work in politics and television who are convinced that viewers are children to be led by the hand. I consider The Four Times a political film because it gives viewers’ choices.

Was it difficult to find funding for this kind of film?
Initially I wanted public and other types of funding, and to involve festivals and universities. But the very long process necessarily made public financing an important component. We put a lot of bricks together in constructing this. The producers were courageous, the final budget was close to €1m.

What is your next project?
We are working with the Italian producer Vivo Film on an animated film, a story of a little kid that takes place from 1978-81. This was a crucial period for Italy, a so-called period of backlash. After numerous city squares and open spaces, society took to the home, to private spaces, and exposed itself to new images through TV.

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