Film- I am Love
I am Love
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabbriellini
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Running Time: 120 minutes
Score: 4.5 out of 5
For certain people in the Top of the South, September is the best month. Our explosion into spring contributes, without question, but the heart of the matter lurks in much darker spaces. For it is when The New Zealand International Film Festival bursts onto screens in Nelson and Motueka that these folk get happy, grab pencils and start plotting schedules with zeal bordering on the military.
One film certain to feature on many such plans is I am Love, an Italian film co-produced by and starring the ethereal Tilda Swinton; set in Northern Italy it is a matriarchal drama, naturally, with one obvious question – how can Italians wring anything more from familial dysfunction?
Focussing on the molto-wealthy Rechhi family, a textile clan spanning three generations, I am Love pivots around Emma Recchi (Swinton), her children, and the passage of power to a new generation. Opening inside their endlessly-tasteful mansion we spy on staff preparing for a grand occasion; the whole family have gathered to celebrate a significant birthday. The head of the business, grandfather to Emma’s children, is in poor health and uses the occasion to pass the reigns of the firm to his son and, unexpectedly, one of his grandchildren, Edoardo.
That evening a young chef, Antonio, introduces himself to Edoardo and, by association, Emma. Antonio is passionate and ambitious. He is planning to open a restaurant in countryside far from Milan where he grows produce for his dishes – Edoardo buys into this dream and the plan progresses as the two men become friends; meanwhile chance encounters see Emma’s relationship with Antonio, spurred by his intoxicating cuisine, take an entirely different and more dangerous path. As Emma’s husband, Tancredi, prepares their factory for sale against Edoardo’s wishes, matters come to a head in much the same way they began - Antonio now preparing the food as another banquet approaches.
The beauty of this film is apparent in its first frames – Milan deadened by deep snow, opening credits evoking the golden age of European cinema, and bold, syncopated music by American composed John Adams. Indeed I am Love looks spectacular throughout; its warm hues wash over us, cleverly conceived angles and details illuminate emotion and interspersed footage of factory, housekeepers, and nature contextualise using the periphery. Adams music is unforgettable and deliberately obtrusive. The acting, almost forgotten, is uniformly robust.
But it is in the incomprehension of motive and the peculiarities born of free will that I Am Love truly succeeds. This isn’t a complex story or one peculiar to those bestowed with wealth or wisdom. It is tale of passion, guilt, and, above all, choice. That is truly magnificent in the way it looks, sounds, and feels doesn’t detract from the fact that it tells us nothing new. But faced with so much to celebrate, who cares?
I am Love is an extraordinary film amongst good company. Don’t miss it or the film festival. Sharpen your pencils. Live indoors this spring.