Saturday, 14 August 2010

I Am Love

I Am Love

A fair portion of Western European cinema fits the stereotype of focusing on the interplay within middle class nuclear or moneyed extended families. Whilst the argument could be made that cinema of this type is an exercise in escapism, as with the mainly well-to-do leads in the majority or Hollywood studio pictures of the 30s and 40s that didn’t form part of the war or western genres, on the other hand it can be seen as a leveling device, a setting free of instigatory happenstance. The characters do not need to struggle to survive, so with more time to reflect we are able to bear witness to the relationships which occur within families and with those people that family members introduce from without.
I Am Love follows Emma, a Russian woman now married to the son of a wealthy businessman in Italy. Whilst hardly the staunch matriarch underpinning the whole family, the film doesn’t tread familiar territory by setting Emma apart from her family, using her birthplace to make her an outsider, though there are many hints of her being “other” throughout.
Much of the film busies itself with incidental detail with the world around the characters taking center stage, most affecting being a love scene outdoors where a tumult of insects and plants enjoys more screen time than the lovers’ bodies. A number of occasions feature exceptional use of sound, one scene with Emma caught in rapture when tasting her lover’s meal where all noise is drowned out bar the sound of her eating, allowing us to drink in the pleasure she experiences, whilst many other scenes opt to follow two characters as they meet and begin a conversation only for the camera to hold back and observe in silence, encouraging the audience to study body language and attitude rather than any content.
At the start of the film I thought that director Luca Guadagnino might be using some of the Dogme rules of natural lighting, sets and sound, but later on there are certain uses of artificial light and non-present music with the climactic scene in particular benefiting from the score, the music injecting much of the drama into a situation that could easily result in the audience turning against our heroine, Tilda Swinton on excellent form as Emma discovering love for perhaps the first time.
Many films that deal with infidelity, whether for love or lust, understandably draw much of their drama from confrontation, but here the affair is barely spoken of with everything instead played out before our eyes, one standout being when son Eduardo drops the penny.

I Am Love manages to be fresh and vital within a genre that so often rests on its laurels, allowing strong performances to make up for lacklustre plotting or direction, but here everything comes together in a sublime example of cinema. It will be interesting to see what Guadagnino does with a possible remake of giallo legend Dario Argento’s Suspiria.


sarah said...

might have to go and see this now..

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