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I Am Love


Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Luca Guadagnino 
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabbriellini  
An image from I Am Love

Somehow, in the last half-century, melodrama has become terribly unfashionable. I Am Love daringly questions modern cinema’s more conservative storytelling techniques, proving that this much-maligned genre has potential for great beauty and subtlety. The result of director Luca Guadagnino’s operatic drama is an emphatic and overflowing sensorial experience. Within this realm of excess a delicate balance is achieved; the passionate music and potent imagery are offset by the sensitive performances of a strong ensemble cast.

The film’s producer and leading actress is Tilda Swinton, who has been working on the film for 10 years. Swinton’s dedication to this project is evident from her having learned Italian and Russian for her role as Emma, the dutiful wife and mother of three who married into the Recchi family, a rich and aristocratic Italian dynasty. Her discovery that her daughter is breaking away from conservative family conventions prompts Emma to begin her own process of self-exploration. Her son’s new business partner, the talented young chef Antonio (Gabbriellini), awakens Emma’s long buried taste for pleasure through the sumptuous food that he creates. Delight in food spurs Emma to discover other areas of pleasure, leading to one of the most delightfully overblown sex scenes in cinema history, with all of the flowers and insects of the Italian countryside humming and quivering alongside our heroine’s growing delight. While Emma is turning her back on family conventions, the foundations of the Recchi family are gradually breaking away, leading to sudden and unexpected tragedy.

The world of this film may initially feel cold and stilted. While profoundly affecting, the stylistic flourishes also seem to hold the audience at a certain distance. However, I Am Love is so defiantly original and majestic in scale that it demands admiration. Few films display this level of sumptuous excess and profound elegance.

Shoshana Eilon

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Screenings of this film:

2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)