In the heat of the summer, it's easy to convince people to part with at least $12 of their hard earned dollars to sit in the icy cool of a sun-less movie theater. But, in the case of I Am Love, I'm not persuading you to watch it on the big screen, I'm demanding it. The film demands it. The smooth alabaster of Tilda's skin abutted against her paled strawberry chignon simply won't look the same on your personal-sized laptop screen. Neither will the swooping tracking shots or the perfectly plated meals. The brightness of the big screen was invented for films like this. The rich colors, the lush and surprisingly intense score--it all needs a theater.
The film is a study in freedom and family. It executes its narrative through thoughtful details on every level--the costuming most impressively. Tilda's assimilated Russian character plays house in the estate of an historic (and rich) Milanese family. Their rituals and customs, those that only old money can pass on, are tightly arranged and sophisticated. In the beginning of the film, when Tilda's Emma is ensconced in that culture, she too is tightly arranged and sophisticated. Her hair is smoothed, her clothes are pressed, her jewels are in place, and her tailor is obviously preternaturally talented. As passion seeps in the cracks of the heavy doorways, Emma unravels, blushes, brightens. Raf Simons designed Swinton's wardrobe to speak a chromatic language. The premise may sound cloying (red=passion), but the result is more subtle than all of that. Besides, it's not until Emma's clothes start to get stripped away that they really start to speak for her. They are peeled from her, like so many layers of hiding. Underneath it all, her bare skin is almost translucent as it gleams in the San Remo sunshine, appearing especially pale in contrast to her darker lover, the one who has undressed her.
Her clothes wind up back on, sometimes forcefully and you see what a burden they are. In the context of the film, yes they are a burden. But my, oh my, in the eyes of a fashion fan, they are pure bliss. Do yourself a favor, put down the internet and see this film on the big screen if you get a chance. It's simply gorgeous.
Stills and film clip from Nowness.com.