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Four Roads review: Meditative 16mm frames document the life of rural neighbours amid a raging virus

Streaming on MUBI, Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher’s eight-minute documentary is a ray of hope amid the Coronavirus-induced isolation.

  • Reema Gowalla

Last Updated: 06.20 AM, Apr 11, 2022

Four Roads review: Meditative 16mm frames document the life of rural neighbours amid a raging virus
A still from the film

STORY: Stuck in prolonged isolation, Italian film director Alice Rohrwacher resorts to using a 16mm camera, a zoom lens and an expired film to build contact with her neighbours in suburban Tuscany. In the process, she creates what can be described as the magic of human touch. Four Roads (Quattro Strade) is a pensive yet beautiful observation of life within a rural community, while the world suffers in the grip of a raging virus.

REVIEW: “Thanks to my magic eye, reaching where my body can’t” - this is filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher speaking to her zoom lens, as it sets out to document the daily lives of her neighbours during the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020. As the world maintained strict physical distance, the eight-minute Italian short film - shot on tactile 16mm frames - focuses on the mundane, humdrum tasks of four people in her immediate neighbourhood in rural Italy.

Humanist, honest and candid, the scenes in the documentary pierce through the gloom that the Coronavirus enveloped the world in, transporting the audience to a soothing bygone era of nostalgia, optimism and healing. An expired film covers the strange solitary lives of people in her locale - of them rambling around four grassy pathways leading to their homes, walking their dogs during sunny afternoons, little girls blowing dandelions and so on. Even though the pandemic brought the world to a standstill, the lives of these people never really stopped. In their own secluded, private space, there is always work to be done.

Even from their prosaic day-to-day concerns, Alice found the inspiration for work and imagination. While it may seem peering to many, capturing these clips through a zoom lens enabled the homebound filmmaker to admire small things during the lockdown that gave her joy and a sense of creativity.

VERDICT: A glimmer of hope and positivity amid the chaos, Four Roads provides a quick sojourn to Italian countryside dwellings through pastel frames. Dipped in innocence and playfulness, the documentary relies on a person’s natural curiosity to observe and learn more about their surroundings. Watch the film for its gentle narrative technique and unassuming portrayal of everyday life.

*Reema Gowalla is an arts and culture journalist, who mostly writes about theatre and independent cinema, and sometimes also delves into culinary heritage.