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An old shepherd lives his last days in a quiet medieval village perched high on the hills of Calabria, at the southernmost tip of Italy. He herds goats under skies that most villagers have deserted long ago. He is sick, and believes to find his medicine in the dust he collects on the church floor, which he drinks in his water every day. Written by
My main study is in the nature of insight and immersion, the mechanisms that control it, linked to meditation, so a lot of these slow-paced/ meditational films are recommended to me by friends and users on here. Very few work, and for every Antonioni there are three times as many Tsai Ming-Liangs. This one does.
The difference between one that works and others, which is the difference between meditation and sleep, is how well the filmmaker structures. It's not enough to convey an empty room, there has to be somehow someone there who is just a few words short of self and the room still being empty.
The structure here is that we have three worlds, three burials (four, if we listen to the filmmaker). Dissolution of one means birth in the next, and the whole is being spun because we breathe in the world of the film. In between we get the transient flow of things simply being themselves. We get rituals of living that pass the time, from the absurd Roman parade to sweeping a church floor to herding and playtime among baby goats, rituals about the passing of time like the one with the tallest tree cut down and erected as the center of a ceremony then symbolically cut down again, and our film as a ritual that reflects both kinds of passing.
Its function is like the mandala of Tibetans, a space where you still the mind until you begin to notice more than painted symmetry. From passing time to observation about the passing.
I would have preferred a little less quirkiness from Tati in the individual parts and a little more purity but that is a minor complaint. If you like this, look out for a guy called Ben Rivers.
The end is not an end in the classical sense and only recycled being, another mandala here. But you have to see it. What is the smoke of burned trees blowing out to the forest but transformation, the forest returning to itself? There's a beautiful Zen saying about this.
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