Emma’s Revitalisation in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Io sono l’amore’

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‘I Am Love’ is as light as it is suffocating. It is a film of silently expressive and strong collisions. In the presence of prosperity one cannot presumably be oneself, except if oneself is the product to be sold and bought. The capitalist attitudes, the artificial behavioural codes and the patriarchal power relations inside the Recchi family remind of Thomas Mann’s ‘Buddenbrooks’, the tragic portrayal of a wealthy and respected merchant family’s decline. Usually the façade is always cared for, it needs to look splendid, peaceful and perfect even though behind it things are falling apart, people are falling apart, rotting because of each other.

But in ‘I Am Love’ something else is happening, the façade is, of course, mesmerising and distracting, maybe it is the only thing everyone truly cares about, but nevertheless the traditional and sexist role distributions are very representative of themselves, societally accepted and tolerated, the inter-relative human crisis is obvious, but deemed inexistent and of no importance. Despite this severe subject matter and the superficial, damaging and oppressive fixation on a name and not on the people who carry it, the protagonist, Emma, blossoms where others might collapse. She learns how to breathe, she re-learns what life tastes like as she felt forced to unlearn it, every essence of it, to unlearn herself in order to represent a brand, a reputation that is not hers, a name that does not fit her and that she gradually outgrows, a personality she needs to be formed into, according to others’ restrictive standards, she must be money, not humane.

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Somehow she resembles an Emma Bovary or an Effi Briest gone right. She rediscovers how to love, to feel passion and act out of her impulses and basic senses, thereby revolting peacefully against the expected existence and identity imposed on her. With Antonio she is not an outcast, or a refugee seeking fulfilment in solitude in the middle of a party. With him she goes back and forth, past to present, present to future, nowhere and everywhere, but most importantly she finds herself again and one cannot even blame or stigmatise her, as she feels liberated and liberating, it may seem as if she lived in a golden cage, but absolutely not, that is the point. Her life lies in her hands, one cannot feel bad or anxious of what might happen, of course not everything resulting out of the changes is good-natured, but due to her awakening and her life-affirming evolution one cannot help but wander with her and embrace life, enjoying and living it, not paying for it or spending it.

Attraction and communication are transmitted through the senses, through the act of cooking and eating, tasting, chewing, swallowing, smelling, touching, fantasising, but mostly through passion which does not need many words to be fuelled. Two women, mother and daughter, find their way in opposing contrast to their prescribed stereotypical roles, gender and sexuality, they find the way to themselves and to each other, out of the forced paralysis they learn how to live, how to turn their backs on those who suffocate them and most importantly to turn into themselves and to themselves.

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