Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Am Love

The intoxicating I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) begins in winter. On a gray Milan day, snow encases the Recchis’ villa. But inside, the abode is glorious and bustling. Emma (Tilda Swinton) works with her servants to prepare a dinner in which her father-in-law (Gabriele Ferzetti) will name the successor to his business. Emma’s beautiful family arrives one by one, and the banquet proceeds.

No one seems to fit more into the Recchis’ immaculate lifestyle than Emma, a Russian transplant. She is close to her children, especially her confiding daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) and oldest son Edoardo (Flavio Parenti). He works for the Recchi business and supports his best friend Antonio’s (Edoardo Gabbriellini) efforts to start a new restaurant. Emma attends Antonio's family restaurant where his cooking affects her like an aphrodisiac.

I Am Love is a hypnotic addition to the oft told story of a woman’s awakening. As the film moves into and through the heights and depths of summer weather, several characters embark on a journey of self discovery and freedom. The dazzling score, featuring many pieces by John Adams, is as much a part of the movie as its imagery. While there are subtle commentaries on character, globalization, and classism, much of the symbolism is obvious. Birds flutter against church ceilings; moths fight against lamp shades. Gourmet food, naked bodies, and edenic scenery are lovingly illuminated.

Because the dialogue is occasionally cliché, I Am Love works best when no explanations are given. Tilda Swinton is superb, and the attractive supporting cast is excellent. Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s highly dramatic film is not for everyone, but some will adore this sweeping symphony of transformation and love.