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I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Luca Guadagnino and Producer-Star Tilda Swinton; Interviews with Cast & Crew: Exploring the film’s inception, development, funding and casting; Moments on Set: Detailing the trials, tribulations and tender moments of the production process; Official UK Theatrical Trailer.

TILDA Swinton and Luca Guadagnino claim to be reinventing cinema with I Am Love, an Italian movie that represents a new form of ‘sensational cinema’.

But while the concept is intriguing, the execution is pretty darn pretentious… so much so that it undermines a lot of the good work that has gone into the movie.

Seven years in concept and design, the film finds Swinton (who also produces) playing Emma, the dutiful Russian wife at the centre of the Recchis… a rich Italian family built on the success of their textile company.

Emma’s husband, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) has become the new head following the death of its former patriarch (Gabriele Ferzetti), while the couple have two grown-up sons and a daughter attempting to find their own way in the world.

Their existence is apparently idyllic with Emma, in particular, content with the luxuries afforded to her by her family’s success and the apparent happiness of her children.

But things begin to unravel once Emma is introduced to her son’s new business partner, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a rural chef with talent. When Emma and Antonio begin an affair, the stage is set for heartbreak and tragedy.

I Am Love is the sort of movie for which the term ‘Shakespearean’ seems to have been invented. It unfolds at a deliberately pedestrian pace, displays a keen eye for detail and has characters that are full of layering and dramatic potential.

And there’s plenty to admire in the strength of the performances and the insights into Italian family life, which look and feel authentic.

Sadly, Guadagnino undoes a lot of the good work with his need to become ‘sensational’. His decision to juxtapose an explicit love-making scene with frequent cutaways to nature is distracting and unnecessary and in no way matches the similar device employed by Terrence Malick to show the environmental cost of war in The Thin Red Line.

The use of soft focus, blurred focus and numerous landscape shots also takes you out of the movie, interrupting the dramatic flow which is, at best, slow.

And the deliberately downbeat nature of proceedings, coupled with the self-serious script, eventually becomes wearying. A lot of the story is telegraphed and the screenplay holds few real surprises.

Alas, by virtue of the deliberately self-important tone, Swinton’s presence as both star and producer, and it’s self-consciously artsy flourishes, I Am Love is the type of film that will have the critics of Time Out and The Guardian salivating.

But this is a pretentious, uninvolving movie that tests the patience and ultimately leaves you feeling extremely empty inside.

In Italian, with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 119mins
UK DVD Release: September 13, 2010