Grand passions: Forbidden love amid Italy’s upper class

A lush romantic melodrama that harks back to the heady days of Visconti and Antonioni, I Am Love is blessed with a contemporary star who pulls off the film’s grand passions magnifcently.

Tilda Swinton plays Emma, a Russian-born woman who has married into the wealthy Recchi family, a clan of Milanese industrialists that is preparing to pass control of its textile empire from one generation to the next.

On the surface, the poised and elegant Emma looks perfectly at home in this upper-class Italian world. And she seems every bit as glacial as Swinton’s White Witch from the Narnia films.

Yet as the film unfolds she reveals both the heat of her feelings and her status as an outsider when she begins an affair with her son’s friend, young chef Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) – a secret liaison that has tragic consequences.

I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) has clearly been a labour of love for Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino, as their fascinating commentary track on the DVD reveals.

They discuss their seven-year-long endeavour to bring the project to the screen and the hurdles they had to surmount along the way – including their pursuit of American composer John Adams, whose surging baroque minimalism proves a surprisingly perfect fit for the film’s mood of operatic grandeur and emotional intensity.

I Am Love is released on DVD by Metrodome. Read the full review.