Imagine a sunny day in the Italian countryside. Among wild flowers and a hazy line of mountains, hidden in the tall grass Tilda Swinton is naked and her nipples resemble the gooseberries that are growing around her. She and an Italian chef make passionate love in this languorous setting in Io Sono L’amore or I am Love (2009). In fact it is almost melodramatic to see their bodies – skin turning red with a sweaty pinkish glow in the sun and pores erupting into goosebumps while bees buzz and flowers bloom. Lest I sound like someone vying for the bad sex in fiction award, Luca Guadagnino, the director has made a very sensual film. Together with Tilda Swinton playing a Russian who is married to an Italian and speaks both languages here, I am Love delivers her passion for food…and love successfully onto the screen for us to savour and relish.
For it is a ‘yummy’ film for the eyes. And the ears. The lush opening sequence is set to a score by John Adams – and it recurs throughout and ends the film as well on a highly dramatic note. We enter Milan and the plush interiors of the Recchi family’s villa. Swinton’s Emma is a very attractive mother of three who seems comfortable in her environment and lovely clothes. Yet there is a constraint that we do not encounter till she meets her son’s friend Antonio – a chef in his father’s restaurant but looking out to start one of his own with his own experimental delicacies. Her break from the family towards an affair with Antonio, and her subsequent choice at the end may make people feel that the story is forced or flawed. But it represents the traditional Italian outlook towards family life (like in Godfather for example) and Emma’s digression – a break up of that system. Not just a system of family but also one of money and capital.
Being a fan of Italian filmmakers like Antonioni and Fellini and their fashionable alienation themes, I couldn’t help but to make a connection between Monica Vitti (L’Avventura, Il Deserto Rosso) and Swinton – though this seems like a very disparate comparison. The similarity I find lies in the quest and longing for something more vibrant beyond the rich Italian society of their characters. This dynamism enters Emma’s life in the form of food and a person cooking it. A love that travels through the stomach and fills her to the brim wanting more. Yet is it but a strong physical attraction in the cliché setting of a younger man falling for an older woman? Probably. But Swinton is brilliant in making you feel for her loneliness and intense joy in her new-found life. She returns back to nature reborn and goes on to have fantastic sex in the wilderness. Whatever way you look at it, you might find it pretty tasty.
P.S: I’m not sure why story writers do not get Indian names right. Waris Ahluwalia who plays a Sikh man in the film is named Shai Kubelkian!