Greetings again from the darkness. A really good Italian film from writer/director Luca Guadagnino and a terrific performance from Tilda Swinton. The film centers on power and family and trust and self-discovery … and the complexities of each.
As a young, working class Russian, Emma (Tilda Swinton) is whisked away to marriage and life in the aristocracy of Milan. She dutifully raises her kids and organizes huge dinners and parties at their mansion as the Rechhi’s entertain business clients and their own family. It is during these parties that we realize Emma is technically part of the family, but really still an outsider. She escapes to her own space once the events are running smoothly.
Being an avid cook herself, she easily clicks with a brilliant young chef introduced to the family by her own son. Very little doubt where it’s headed at this point as Emma unleashes the pent up energy she has been forced to hide. While we are very aware that the upper crust has learned to look the other way with infidelity, that’s not the case with the Rechhi’s and their Russian wife/mother.
The brilliance in the film is that it shows how the younger generation doesn’t really fit any better than Emma. The difference is that they are part of the fabric and will be allowed more rope than an outsider. Still it is painful to watch Emma with her son, who can’t quite adapt to the family business. Better yet, to watch her with her daughter, who confesses her preference for other women. Emma sees herself in these two, but doesn’t have the same freedom. Her best ally is the caretaker who seems to understand the multiple levels on which this family functions.
Fascinating interactions and complex writing make this a film for film lovers. There is so little dialogue, but much is said with a glance or head nod. Many U.S. writers could learn a thing or two. Must also mention the startling score by John Adams. It is quite operatic, which plays along with the themes of the film.