Berlinale Bloggers 2017
A universal love story

Call me by your name
Filmstill © Luca Guadagnino | „Call me by your name“

Luca Guadagnino’s film is the only Italian offering at the Berlinale. It is a shame that it has not been entered for an award. 

Summer 1988, a nondescript small town in Northern Italy: The family of 17-year old Elio is awaiting the arrival of Oliver, an American student who will spend a few weeks with them to complete his PhD thesis. Elio’s dad is a renowned university lecturer. Despite their age difference, the two boys gradually develop a friendship, which then turns into something more.

Call me by your name Filmstill © Luca Guadagnino | „Call me by your name“ Call me by your name is the only Italian film at the Berlinale 2017 (Panorama Special category). However, judging by the names of the leading cast members (Arnie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg and Esther Garrel) or the story on which it is based (the novel by American-Egyptian André Aciman), it is fair to say that it is perhaps the least Italian film ever shown at the Berlinale. Guadagnino has developed a style that is recognisable in the world of cinematography. “I feel very Italian and very European at the same time”, he explained after the screening of his film.

The soundtrack of Call me by your name may have been written by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and his previous two films, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, may have starred his friend Tilda Swinton, but it is not because of this that they were distributed around the world: Guadagnino is able to begin with specifics (whether it is the context, Italy, or the theme, homosexual love between two young men) and end up with the universal: the same story could have been set anywhere and speak of the emergence of passion between two young heterosexuals. The involvement of the audience goes beyond the specific features of the story or the characters.

The film focuses on the ideas of desire and self-awareness and exposes both their limits and the occasional yearning to go beyond them in order to feel truly free. It also highlights the cyclical nature of this phenomenon, thus showing that such feelings return over time and at different ages. The final shots of the house in winter and Elio's father's speech hammer the point home, making the viewer feel, upon leaving the cinema, that they have truly lived the story that they have just seen played out on the big screen. This does not always happen, but when it does, it is great cinema.