Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tilda Swinton: I Am Love

I Am Love is a cinematic tour de force that explores the revolutionary power of love. The film is the result of a long-term collaboration between British actress Tilda Swinton (Orlando, Michael Clayton, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Italian writer and director Luca Guadagnino, who first worked with Swinton when she took the lead role in his 1999 feature-length debut, The Protagonists.

At the center of I Am Love, is Emma Recchi, played by Swinton. She's a trophy wife acquired by her Russian art-loving husband on a foray into the former socialist republic. By marriage, Emma is part of an Italian industrial dynasty that is born of fascism but embracing capitalism. But having served her primary purpose, giving birth to and raising those that will carry on the Recchi lineage, Emma is searching for a place in life beyond that at the end of a well-laid dinner table. At a point where she's at a crossroads in her own life, Antonio Biscaglia, an associate of her son's, crosses her path. As a chef, he's below stairs and below her status, but he proves to be irresistible to her, and their passion ignites a chain of events that rocks the stability of the Recchi patriarchy.

Though I Am Love is a work of fiction, there are distinct parallels to Swinton's own life. "You're always playing yourself," the actress told The Observer newspaper back in 2005 while promoting the film Thumbsucker. "It's all autobiography, whatever you're doing. It's using them as a kind of prism through which to throw something real about yourself."

With luminous pale skin, Celtic coloring and disconcertingly vivid green eyes, Tilda is clearly not born of Italian capitalist / nouveau aristocratic stock. However she comes from one of the oldest feudal baronial families in the United Kingdom, and can trace her bloodline back to the ninth century, so understands what it is to be a woman in a grand family. The mother of twins by Scottish writer John Byrne, who is twenty years her senior, since 2004 Swinton has been in a much-speculated about relationship with German-born painter Sandro Kopp, who is her junior by 18 years. Though this love triangle has echoes of that in her latest film, ultimately the outcomes are very different. The choice Byrne made to give Swinton his blessing in order to preserve their love and family life for the sake of themselves and their children is as progressive as her partner's alternate choice in the film is archaic.

I sat down with Swinton at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons to talk about her philosophies on filmmaking and love.

Read my interview with Tilda Swinton on

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