I Am Love,
a swooning sumptuous piece of controlled aestheticism by Luca
Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton (who plays Emma, our heroine, with
effortless brilliance, and not only in Italian, but Italian with a
Russian accent, and is also a Producer), the film a masterpiece of
stylized ornamentality with echoes of Visconti, of Hitchcock, of
This is a
family story: the Milanese Recchi dynasty has made its fortune in
the textiles business. Emma, married to Tancredo Recchi
lives in an opulent mansion; Tancredo met her in Russia, we know
her family is artistic but that she is now more Italian than the
Italians, the perfect hostess. There are the grandparents,
her children: Edo, Betta, Gianluca. A meal in winter: the
larger family has gathered at the mansion. The patriarch
transfers power to Emma’s husband and son, Tancredi and Edo.
A reference to the Tate Gallery dates the scene, tells us it is
around 2000, and that their world is changing around them.
in this film—for the interloper that evening is a young chef,
Antonio, who comes knocking at the door with a cake for Edo, and
later, the much-talked-about scene with prawns (what Swinton has
called prawn-ography!), and also, a Russian soup from Emma’s lost
childhood, and it is food here that makes Emma let herself be
carried away by Antonio. There’s
Swinton in her dresses designed by Raf Simons (of Jil Sander), the
ubiquitous Hermes Birkin bag. All armor that you know will
be discarded like so many sheath dresses, for more than family,
food and fashion this is a film about love, where passion is never
merely lust, where life is to be lived, and the inner life is
breathtakingly important, celebrated.
inner life, flutter of wings, bird at an open window, sky outside.
Tilda Swinton has said this about her character’s name, her
childhood name that Emma had put away like so many childish
what she was called at home, Kitesh, and Kitesh isn't actually a
human name; this is a reference for those who know it...Kitesh is
a legendary Russian village that was being ransacked by – I don't
know who, the barbarians, of some kind – and the idea was that the
village, when the marauders were coming, sank down into this...
very beautiful, clear lake. The idea is that it sank down
into the lake to protect itself from the marauders, and you can go
there now, and go see it in the lake, because it's so clear you
can see the reflection. But that's what Kitesh is, and we
called her Kitesh because of the idea that she would be submerged.
She's not suppressed, oppressed, or repressed, in any way, but she
is submerged. It's like she's waiting to come up, which she
does, of course, at a point in the film. That's all we know.
It’s a film
that is unabashedly old-fashioned, the story that of a grand
The hip and the flippant wilt besides Luca Guadagnino’s
celebration of beauty. As NPR says, this is a film
its heart on its expensively tailored sleeve.
And the music, the food, the fashion, the music, the passion, everything
leads up to the majestic ending, which has all the drama and
grandeur that is possible in art: heartbreaking raw emotion on Swinton’s face, a bird fluttering in a church window, the wild
rain, statues of stone that slowly darken in the wet........
I Am Love
Swinton's fashion in I Am Love
on I Am Love