I Am Love
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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The misty mountains of Sanremo, Italy are an arousing backdrop to a forbidden love across class boundaries from the last vestiges of Milanese aristocracy to the working-class rural proletariat. Married to the heir of a textile manufacturing company, Emma (Tilda Swinton) is an out-of-place Russian emigre who excuses herself early from family gatherings to the company of her maid. Swinton’s sharp features are softened and elegant here. Neither the snow queen of Narnia or an etherial muse of queer director Derek Jarman (Caravaggio, Last of England, Edward II).
Emma is an outcast Russian married into a Milanese textile manufacturing family threatened by selling out to global capitalism that signified the new Millennium. She enters into a forbidden affair with Antonio (in his twenties), the working-class household chef who is about to enter into a restaurant venture with Emma’s son, Eduardo. Director Luca Guadagnino strikes a melodramatic cord showing influence of filmmakers he studied in school back in 2001. Namely, Lucino Visconti, Hitchcock, and Douglas Sirk. The effect of Sirk on Guadagnino’s style can be found in the keen use of color prominent in Swinton’s changing costumes through the seasons in concert with the plot.
Yorick Le Saux captures erotically intimate images that dance between first person views to wide and deep shots staged theatrically. Emotion is swells and releases at the pitch-perfect moment to end a grieving scene or give a sex scene time to build to climax. John Adams’ score chirps along, playing with movement of camera and character while being an emotional guide unafraid of charging moments high drama without a heavy hand.
Swinton’s hair shines golden in the Sanremo sun where she spots Antonio while on vacation. His worn jeans and plain t-shirt are a stark contrast to the tailored high-fashion of Emma and her mother-in-law. Guadagnino turns the high fashion of Milan into a statement on the growing class gap between global monopolies and the working poor. These inequalities fuel the drama and amplify the consequences of Emma’s affair. She risks everything for pleasure and love, but she walks out the door with her dignity and track suit. The audience is left with a cliff hanger.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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