I Am Love

Before I went to see I Am Love, I heard someone on the radio refer to it as an “Italian potboiler”. That seems to me to be a fair description of the film. It tells the story of a Russian woman, Emma (Tilda Swinton), who has married into a family of Italian industrialists, the Recchys. She has a cold relationship with her husband, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), who is out of town much of time. She throws fancy parties that she doesn’t attend. Her son, Edoardo (Flavio Parenti), runs the family business along with his father. He doesn’t like some of his father’s decisions, such as laying off workers. When his father, along with the rest of the family, decide to sell their textile business, Edoardo objects. He argues that the Recchys have always been about more than just making money.

Edoardo’s best friend is Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a chef who makes exquisite dishes with skimpy portions. The two of them want to open up a restaurant. One day, Emma bumps into Antonio on the street. He invites her up to his cottage in the mountains, where he grows all the vegetables he uses in his dishes. (His garden looks small. No wonder his portions are skimpy.) There the two of them begin, without much dialogue, a torrid affair. During the love scenes there are lots of cutaway shots of flowers and insects. I take it that this is supposed to indicate that nature is following her course. From then on, Emma and Antonio keep their affair secret. However, Edoardo eventually finds out about it. As you might expect, he becomes deeply upset. During an argument with his mother, he accidently falls into a swimming pool. Since this is an Italian movie, he hits his head on the edge of the pool and dies. Edoardo’s death plunges Emma and the entire Recchy family into a profound crisis.

Emma’s eventual rejection of her family’s cynical venality in favor of Antonio’s bohemianism is clearly meant to be seen as a form of self-liberation. (The film links eating with sex in a way that reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate.) However, I didn’t like the fact that Edoardo is killed, since I found him the most sympathetic character in the film. I guess his death is supposed to be the shattering of Emma’s last remaining illusions about her life.

The main reason I went to see this film is because the musical score is by John Adams, a composer whose work I’ve always admired. Adams’s music is glorious, though the movie uses it in a way that is melodramatic.

I Am Love is not a bad movie. However, it didn’t strike me as being particularly good, either. I didn’t care that much about the characters, and there were moments that struck me as self-consciously artsy. However, it did keep me interested for two hours. That’s more than I can say for some films that have won Academy Awards.

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2 Responses to “I Am Love”

  1. Andrew Coates Says:

    Just to say there are quality film reviews here.

    This film was on in Ipswich last week (at the Film Theatre).

    I didn’t go and see it because there was a line in the Guardian that said it was ‘visually stunning’.

    I read that to mean boring…

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