Italy Release Date: 03-10-2010
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
- Tilda Swinton, as
- Emma Recchi
- Flavio Parenti, as
- Edoardo Recchi Jr.
- Edoardo Gabbriellini, as
- Antonio Biscaglia
- Alba Rohrwacher, as
- Elisabetta Recchi
- Pippo Delbono, as
- Tancredi Recchi
- Diane Fleri, as
- Eva Ugolini
- Maria Paiato, as
- Ida Roselli
- Marisa Berenson, as
- Allegra Recchi
- Waris Ahluwalia, as
- Shai Kubelkian
- Gabriele Ferzetti, as
- Edoardo Recchi Sr.
- Mattia Zaccaro as
- Gianluca Recchi
Edoardo, Emma and Antonio.
I love when a movie makes me think afterwards. It shows just how much it affected me and how complex the characters or story are. Never have I seen a movie where the ending is both horribly tragic and yet intended to be uplifting.
I Am Love (Io sono l'amore) is about a wealthy Italian family. They own a textile factory in Milan, the fashion capital of Italy. The mother, Emma, is Russian who married an Italian, Tancredi Recchi. They have three grown children. Emma, on the surface seems to have everything, yet her life is unfulfilled.
The movie opens with a birthday party for her father-in-law. He announces he is retiring and giving the business to Tancredi and their oldest son Edoardo. She could not care less. The passion has long since left their marriage. She plays the dutiful wife managing a house full of servants, while barely masking her unhappiness.
One day she discovers that her daughter is a lesbian, and is overjoyed for her. If only she could be as brave as her and stop pretending to live a life she is unhappy with. Her way out comes in the form of her son's friend Antonio. He is a gourmet chef that Edoardo is going to open a restaurant with. She begins a passionate affair with him. She reveals to Antonio how her husband has made her into the wife he wants her to be and not the woman she really is.
I Am Love plays out in subtle fashion. There is more said with silence than dialogue. My favorite scene is when Edoardo figures out that his mother and Antonio are having an affair by what is served for dinner. He and his mother exchange a look that speaks volumes to each other.
This is a poetic film, in which the location of where everything takes place is just as important as what is taking place. When Emma discovers her daughter is a lesbian she sits atop the Milan cathedral, contemplating it all, and reevaluating her life. When she first makes love to Antonio it is in the Italian alps, with flowers everywhere, as if she is being reborn with spring. The mansion they live in is beautifully art deco, yet seems cold and hard.
Swinton co-produced the film and does an amazing job of acting. She says so much with a look or glance. She speaks in Italian and Russian. She even does a full frontal nude scene. At the end when she races down stairs and stares at her family, I expected a long soliloquy, but none came. We know what she is going to do and we know why she is going to do it. Her name should be included on Oscar's list for best actresses.
Emma is unhappy, yet I had a hard time feeling sorry for her. She has wealth and a family that loves her. She is not a slave to her husband. Emma is quite the selfish person. One son is almost completely ignored. Emma is all too human. At the end of the movie I understood her motives, but did not actually approve of her actions.
I read a blog written by a woman who loved this movie. It is very much a chick flick. Emma in middle age finally decides to live her life on her terms. Unhappy women might relate to that, but she sacrifices everyone around her to have it. This really is a female's fantasy. Emma comes from money and has a young lover, who truly adores her. Women may watch this and cheer for her, but I found Emma to be a selfish bitch, who ends up hurting almost everyone around her.
Tilda Swinton gives an Oscar worthy performance in I am Love.
Eric, I think you're a bit harsh on Emma. It's true that she doesn't exactly do the honorable thing by having an affair while she's still married, but apart from the social embarrassment it's bound to cause, it doesn't appear that her husband is exactly devastated by the news. Sure, her son is upset with her, but given more time and she might have been able to make amends with him. Apart from that, I'm not sure who else you're saying she hurt. Her daughter seems quite happy for her.
It's true that she should share equal blame for her unhappiness. Her husband may have turned her into the wife and mother to his children that he wanted, but she let him. She traded passion and her freedom for wealth and security. You get the idea that her life was full enough when raising her children, but only now that her children are grown and moving on without her that her life has become empty. It hardly makes her a bitch.
This is a very poetic film. The actual plot is pure soap opera, but the way it is filmed raises it above its common story. There are many scenes of pure silence that tell the story better than any dialogue. It has a very dream like quality. As the story began I was actually rather impatient for something to happen, but as the movie progressed and I got into the swing of things, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it all.
There are great moments of symbolism as you said Eric. A bird flutters in the large marble room above Emma and her husband as they share a scene. It flits about trying to find a way out of its gilded surroundings and its obvious that Emma is the bird.
I completely agree that Swinton should have been nominated for Best Actress. She is superb in this part. This is pure acting and with a minimum of lines you see her character change while always knowing what she's feeling.
This is a chick flick, but at least it's a beautiful and artfully done one.
Tilda Swinton in I Am Love.
I Am love is a beautifully crafted cinematic ode to its titular emotion. Tilda Swinton carries the movie on her slender but oh so elegant shoulders. The fact that she failed to garner so much as an Oscar nomination for this stunning performance is shameful. The supporting cast are all competent actors but Swinton is a revelation as the unhappily married Emma who is reborn in the arms of her young lover.
Eric, I cannot agree that Emma is a selfish bitch. Why should she stay married to a man she no longer loves? She has so much more in common with Antonio, such as their love of fine cuisine, not to mention incredible sex.
Another bit of symbolism -apart from examples my brothers already mentioned- is the fact that Antonio is the one that beat Emma's son in a race at the beginning of the movie. All of the male members of the family have their pride hurt by this and it becomes one of the main topics of conversation at the birthday dinner party. Antonio brings a cake but declines to enter the house. Emma is clearly unhappy. She excuses herself from the party early and goes to bed. She watches Antonio leave from her upstairs bedroom/cage.
The story unfolds in a slow, deliberate fashion. The cinematography is exquisite, and as my brothers said, the settings are carefully chosen and they add texture to the melodrama. The way the affair happens is quite beautiful. The outdoor lovemaking scene is shot in extreme close-up. It makes the viewer feel almost as if they are participating in this illicit sexual encounter. It is intense and it makes it easy to understand why Emma would fall so hard for this man. My only complaint is that I never wanted to see so much of Tilda Swinton's breasts.
But on a serious note, I do not blame Emma for her son's tragic accident. His reaction after figuring out the affair between his mother and best friend is ultimately his responsibility. Although the movie seems to be saying that his fate is the price his mother must pay for her sin. Still in life we all must be true to ourselves. Why should she sacrifice her own happiness by staying in a loveless marriage? Her children are adults so the question of their well being is moot. She follows her heart and the final scene is breathtaking. As the original music by classical composer John Adams swells, Emma finds the strength to begin her life anew.
Music plays an important role in the film. The aria "La mamma morta" ("They killed my mother") from the 1896 opera Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano is included in one symbolic scene. Emma and her husband are watching television in bed. Philadelphia is on at the scene where Tom Hanks plays the Maria Callas version of this aria for Denzel Washington. It signifies the death of Emma as a traditional wife/mother.
In my experience there are two major components to fidelity. Most importantly the couple must have an active, satisfying sex life (something Emma and Tancredi do not have). The second component is opportunity. It's not so difficult being faithful when you have no other easy options. It is not something to brag about unless you have looked temptation in the eye and walked away from it. Emma was already unhappy. She left her native homeland behind for good when she married and her life has been one long performance playing the perfect wife and mother. A role she no longer wants to play.
I Am Love shows that life can be messy and that people sometimes get hurt by decisions other people make but its ultimate message is to follow your heart and be true to yourself above all else.
Photos © Copyright First Sun (2010)