Tilda Swinton proves once again why she should be High Lord Ruler of Earth with her performance in I Am Love, a film that has the Englishwoman playing a Russian in Italy.
Emma (Swinton) married into the Recchis, an almost aristocratic family that has oodles of cash and lives in a perfectly manicured world. The film begins with the patriarchal grandfather handing over the reigns of the family business – and not to the person the Recchis expect. From here we follow several of the characters, though we see the world specifically through Emma’s eyes. A revelation about her daughter, Elizabeth (Alba Rohrwacher) leads Emma to question the choices she’s made throughout her life, and encourages her to begin follow her passion rather than her duty.
I Am Love is easily the most visually striking film I’ve seen all year. The cinematography is stunning and bold in a way that few films are these days. It perfectly complements the incredible production design. The Recchis world is made up of right angles – solid, functional and cold – and these are exemplified by the architecture of their mansion, the patterns on their clothing. When Emma begins to strike out on her own, we begin to see spheres and curves – nature and sensuality begins to encroach. This simple visual leitmotif is incredibly striking and one of the best parts of the film.
The film more than once references Hitchcock, and in particular Vertigo. The score by John Adams is brilliant, and certainly makes its presence felt, particularly in the climax, sounding like 80s era Philip Glass.
I Am Love is very slow to start, and this may turn off a number of viewers. In fact, a good 50 per cent of the audience left the cinema sounded disgruntled, and I’m not surprised. It’s certainly not for everyone – it’s a subtle tale that paradoxically works in broad brush strokes. The editing irregularly challenges our expectations also, with sudden arty flourishes amidst the otherwise overly simple construction.
I have to admit that the film kind of snuck up on me – I didn’t really understand the driving narrative until it had finished, and this can be seen as either a merit or a flaw, depending on whether you go to the cinema to be simply entertained or to be confronted. I Am Love is ultimately a very rewarding film. Swinton’s performance is stunning (as always) and Rohrwacher looks eerily convincing as her daughter (and is a fine actor to boot.)Rating: