Tue 9 Apr 2013
Io sono l’amore starts with an impressionist-like picture of a city in winter, reminding a painting by Renoir. Yet, we’ll soon realize that we are not at the end of the 19th century but rather 100 years later. The next scene is a party in a very rich people mansion. A family gathers, three generations get together for the birthday of the founding father of the family. He has a big announcement to make about the family heritage, an announcement everybody waits for many years. The relations between the members of the family start to build up under our eyes during the dinner, the old man is obviously in control. Does this remind Coppola‘s The Godfather? What follows is however a film about the slow decay of the ruling class, a decay that starts from the degradation of the family fabric which does not allow any longer cohesion in face of the forces of economics and history. We are reminded the universe of another great movie – Visconti‘s Il gattopardo.
All these comparisons may seem extremely ambitious for the work of a director, Luca Guadagnino, who is practically at his second feature film only (and the first one seems to have been an erotic teenage drama). Amazing as it may seem, Io sono l’amore is a very complex and daring enterprise that succeeds to compare honorably with the illustrious antecedents it is inspired from and also has a lot to say on its own. The Recchi family in the center of the story is led by strong men who built a textile empire (with dubious origins in the second world war industry, so the Godfather quote is not completely unjustified) and married beautiful women, not always in their own class of super-riches. One of them is Emma (Tilda Swinton), Russian at origin, married to the heir of the empire, leading the house, coordinating the social ceremonies, managing the house economy, raising the children and dealing with their growth and emotional problems. Is she happy? Can she keep together a family that lives in a different age than the one of the ossified bourgeois clans, with some of the younger people trying to break the walls of the conveniences in order to find their vocation or their ways of loving? When the occasion shows up it will be Emma herself who will let her true feelings overcome the conventions, but the way to personal truth may be paved with tragedy. The story of the family relations is carefully constructed and impeccably acted, but there is one moment when the story risks to fall into soap drama. This moment is overcome by the superb acting of Tilda Swinton. I realize now that I missed somehow how huge an actress she is. In one film she succeeds to be at turns high-class cool and passionate, attractive and ugly, young enough to love and fast-aging, in control and completely broken, and all these in one character around whom the whole movie is spinning. At the end, when tragedy had struck, and she has the courage to speak the truth and break the social conventions, she is told by the husband who was a minute ago swearing love and offering protection ‘you are nothing’. It is actually the Recchi’s who get nothing but emptiness in their lives, and this is the moment when Emma gains back her life and the chance to start again.
There are so many beautiful moments of cinema in this film which make it stand on its own and worth remembering even beyond the story itself. There are some amazing moments of camera work, and some haunting fragments of musical score. There is a lot of good acting, and care to the social and relationship details, every corner of the screen is full with characters who live true lives in a realistic and exact composition. There is beautifully filmed nature and there is a lot of interesting food, actually food plays at some moment an important role in the action of the film, as the mean of communication between the characters (one of them is a very talented chef). Guadagnino’s movie continues a tradition in the Italian cinema of using family stories to deal with social and political issues and tells again a story which will be worth telling as long as class differences exist and are challenged by history and by emotions.