I Am Love
I am Love
2009. Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
Tilda Swinton continues to enforce the concept that she is one of the most talented actresses working today in Luca Guadagnino's forbidden sexual powerhouse I Am Love.
Emma is a Russian born woman who married into a powerful Italian family whose influence is in the textile industry. At the patriarch's birthday party, he announces he is passing the company to Emma's husband and son. Amidst financial and familial revelations, Emma's chance meeting with a thoughtful and deeply sensual chef awakens her to the prison of her surroundings. She soon finds emotional freedom in an illicit love affair that threatens to undo the family's legacy.
Tilda Swinton delivers a career defining performance. Learning fluent Italian with a Russian accent, and developing her character over 11 years are a precursor to Swinton's sexually starved socialite's kinetic rousing from a passionless marriage. She covers a board range of complex emotional quicksand with arduous restraint and vulnerable desire when required by Barbara Alberti and Guadagnino's script. The most powerful aspect of her performance is how normal it is. I Am Love tells a story about a powerful lineage that is remarkably just like every other family. Swinton approaches the material as a mother first, and a lover second. The privilege the Recchi's possesses is more of an afterthought and a beautiful excuse for the film's eye widening presentation.
Filmed on location at an Italian mansion, Yorick Le Saux's cinematography constructs a dichotomy between the cold, immaculate world of the Recchi family and the warm, sensual landscape of the chef's Riviera retreat. The lighting switches from synthetic to natural and finishes with a candelabra saturated dinner party, with each act's lighting symbolizing avante garde detachment, raw energy, and the secrets that hide in the shadows. Antonella Cannarozzi's costume design compliments the crystalline imagery by dressing the players in flawless ensembles, allowing each character to showcase the very thing that has propelled them to the height of wealth while also driving them into their respective solitary existences.
The sex scenes in I Am Love are handled with extreme care and illustrate Emma's erotic liberation through unusually long, but undeniably arousing takes. The forest retreat feels otherworldly as the surroundings quietly fall away around the verboten lovers. Swinton and Edoardo Gabbriellini commit without hesitation and while their coupling is sizzling and risque, it's never cheap or cosmetic. The viewer is witnessing two souls falling deeply, hopelessly in love and the sex is a beautifully portrayed mascot of their union.
Decorated composer John Adams' music laces the sordid affair with laconic composition. The score is beautiful, yet almost empty at the beginning, chronicling the daily affairs of the dynasty. As the story builds, so do the melodies until they return to their origins in the somber finale.
Available now for digital rental, I Am Love uses heavenly visuals to breathe life into an overdone story. Sadly, it slips into melodrama territory towards the end, but this is easily forgivable due to Swinton's blistering performance and Guadagnino's steady, refined command of the material. If it's a date night and you're looking for something new and yet familiar, give this one a try.