I Am Love

(2009)

Genres: Drama, Romance

Kartina Richardson: I Am Love

Transcript for Kartina Richardson: I Am Love

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
Next up is our contributor, Kartina Richardson, from mirrorfilm.org, as she takes a deeper look at the Oscar nominated film, I AM LOVE.

KARTINA RICHARDSON:
In I AM LOVE, Tilda Swinton plays Emma Recchi, the wife and mother in a wealthy Italian family that finds love with a younger man, one with the earthiness she needs to counteract her stale, aristocratic life.  But what I like most about the film is its size.

I AM LOVE isn’t a film that minimizes itself. From the magnitude of its title, to its aristocratic poster, it stakes its claim as an important film. 

Director Luca Guadagino speaks to the language of classic cinema. There is sweeping camera movement, meticulous shot composition, silences that magnify the god-awful presence of time, and the careful use of color and costume. 

It is through costume that Guadagino most clearly asserts the film’s largeness, it’s aspiration to timelessness.  All characters wear elegant, but simple clothes.  Ones that prevent them from being identified with any particular time period. Belonging to one year is small.  Belonging to ALL years is large. 

The film’s costumes also display Guadagino’s careful use of color, which frequently underlines connections between characters.  Emma has a special relationship with her daughter Betta and in several scenes the two wear colors previously worn by the other. Here Betta wears tan while her mother wears burgundy, and, in the previous scene here, Emma wears tan while in the next room Betta wears burgundy.   Now Emma’s son has a close relationship with Edo, the housekeeper, and look:  See how the orange juice she pours matches his shirt?  Even the leaves on the plant are the precise shade of green to compliment the walls and furniture.

This kind of extremely planned composition could be too heavy handed. It could ruin the movie, but it doesn’t, and this is due to the most brilliant decision of all, the casting of Tilda Swinton. 

Swinton brings to the film a sharpness that prevents it from straying into dangerous maudlin waters. Like adding vinegar to a sauce that’s too creamy.  Tilda Swinton is an acid that sharpens the richness.  Here she is androgynous and cool, here womanly and soft and here like a wet baby bird. Hers isn’t a conventional appeal, but that’s exactly why it’s necessary in a film of such classical grandeur and drama. The Film remains expansive, while she makes it real.  It’s not easy to bring something big into the world.  People will question your nerve.  Present a small idea and you only risk being called a small fool.  Present a big idea and you risk being called a big fool.  Thankfully for us, however, Swinton and Guadagino didn’t give a damn.