It all started with beige. Beige in the grandiose dining room of the Recchi villa, beige in Emma’s knit sweater and khakis as she prepares for her father-in-law’s birthday dinner. When the guests arrive, Emma changes into a conservative rich purple dress of a 1940s silhouette, her hair down a la Grace Kelly. She is silent as the men are talking business and speaks only to play the part of supportive mother. The wardrobe that follows is a range of light gray-blues and whites, worn as Emma performs her daily errands.
I have adored Tilda Swinton ever since I saw Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) – mainly because of the film’s total dependence on costumes to denote its narrative progression. In Io Sono L’amore (Luca Guadagnino, 2009), costume plays a similar role and Swinton succeeds in wearing them to enhance, not distract, her character development.
Clad exclusively in Jil Sander, Swinton plays Emma Recchi, a porcelain-clean trophy wife of an Italian textile tycoon and a loving mother of two. She spends her days picking up laundry and visiting her husband at his office. Io Sono L’amore speaks of the repression of individuality within the shackles of rituals and order.
The dialogue is minimal and the acting style is bare, but these are compensated by a rich compilation of stylistic elements. John Adams’s operatic score voices the feelings of anger and betrayal that are never properly expressed. The cinematography fluctuates between blurry and bleached out (symbolizing ecstasy) and detailed and revealing (truth). The colours are sometimes muted, sometimes incredibly vibrant. These changes highlight the stages of Swinton’s character development.