Summer means Blockbusters—and each year, actors, filmmakers, and audiences alike gear up to be bombarded with films whose cinematography, acting, and scripts are often times more showy than anything else (Sex and the City 2, anyone?). But every once in a while, we come across a film that, among the glitz and action of massive summer hits, blows everything else out of the water.
I Am Love
, a film by Italian director Luca Guadagnino and starring Tilda Swinton, tells the story of the bourgeois Recchi family, whose lives are undergoing sweeping changes. A story of forbidden love, betrayal and freedom, I Am Love centers around Emma (Swinton), a Russian immigrant adopted into the culture of Milan. An adoring and attentive mother, Emma's existence is shaken to the core when a fate befalls her that ultimately destroys her family. A compelling, provocative, and heartbreaking film, I Am Love is also a treasure trove for the sartorially-minded, with costumes commissioned from heavy-weights, Jil Sander and Fendi. So hop on over to your neighborhood theater because this film is not something you'll want to miss!
Which part of the character of Emma did you respond to most?
"We wanted to tell a story about someone who had a really developed inner life but who didn't have much company, and we were drawing on fantasies of silent cinema and a kind of classic novel like Tolstoy, Flaubert, where you have a woman protagonist—who is very often a mother—who has given a part of her life to supporting and loving other people, and not necessarily paying much attention to herself. We wanted this person to be very interior, not particularly communicative, fairly self sufficient, but unawoken. She's not suppressed or oppressed in any way, but she's just not fully alive when you first meet her. We wanted to look into a woman approaching the idea of being not just a mother, a woman, not just bound by the fact that she's there to support her children. We were thinking of Emma Bovary of course, of Anna Karenina, and anyone in cinema who had a sense of untapped inner life."
How significant is Emma's wardrobe to her character's transformation?
"Well, she's somebody who is an avatar. She comes into this world as an alien, and I think that anybody marrying that sort of industrial tycoon in Milan in the '90s would find themselves daunted to assimilated. There's a uniform you need to be supplied with. You know, to walk the walk and talk the talk in a certain way in order to fit into the very precise grid that that world prescribes people. As someone like Emma, who comes from outside that milieu, she really has no preparation for it. She has to learn the code and so her wardrobe, to a certain extent, is everything."
How do you think the color palette of the costumes evoked her life in the country versus her life at home?
"It was designed to do exactly that. Raf Simons of Jil Sander and his team were so responsive to our challenge which was to make a responsive wardrobe for an uncommunicative person. The idea of her signaling with a red dress that she might be in the process of falling in love... Color referencing was really fun to play with.
What message did you want to convey with the very deliberate references to luxury brands?
"I wanted to convey observations about a kind of limitation of a completely false hierarchy in the market and a kind of global availability and domination of certain luxury brands, which is disappointing at best. It's possible to walk into a rich person's house in any city in the world and find the same make of candles, or the same shoes. I find it a waste of cultural specificity and history and myth making, and I would so much rather walk into someone's house, however much money they have, and feel that I'm actually connecting with the culture of that place and the people who live in that place. I'm disappointed when I go through airports and I see the same shops and I think there's a way in which that particular luxury milieu is like one big duty-free shop."