English Title: Human Capital
Original Title: Il capitale umano
Director: Paolo Virzì
Music: Carlo Virzì
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Luigi Lo Cascio
This is the opening film of the 7th edition of The Panorama of the European Film in Cairo, watched it in Zawya cinema, HUMAN CAPITAL is this year’s official submission for Oscar Foreign Language Film from Italy, after freshly winning the coveted award for Paolo Sorrentino’s THE GREAT BEAUTY (2013) earlier this year. Interestingly, both film are released in 2013 in Italy, so during their face-off in DAVID DI DONATELLO AWARDS (Italy’s equivalent of Oscar), HUMAN CAPITAL was the biggest dark horse, defeated THE GREAT BEAUTY in the BEST FILM competition (with a total 7 wins, including BEST ACTRESS, SUPPORTING ACTOR and ACTRESS, SCREENPLAY and EDITING), although the latter also swept 9 awards including BEST DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, ACTOR, CINEMATOGRAPHY and so on. Thus basically it is an unforseen win-win game.
This is my second Virzì’s film after HARDBOILED EGG (1997), and now Virzì has establish his reputation as a master of storytelling, naturally the film is radically dissimilar from the nostalgic élan in Sorrentino’s showpiece, adapted from the American eponymous novel of Stephen Amidon, Virzì ambitiously transposes the story to the Northern Italian town Brianza, at the foot of the Alps and not far from Milan. Two families, one rich and one ordinary, are involved in a hit-and-run accident in the night before Christmas, the film is evenly divided into four chapters, the first three each focuses on one character’s storyline, all mingled together until we would finally get a clue of this whodunit, then the final chapter, details the aftermath of these two families and ends it with a matter-of-fact annotation of what “human capital” literal means in the scenario, and leaves audience a bitter smack of its figurative connotation – how a human being’s self-worth and morality is lost in the rapacious capitalism.
Three chapters, first is from the prospect of Dino (Bentivoglio), a middle-aged real estate agent, remarried with Roberta (Golina), a public psychiatrist for delinquents. He takes the advantage of his daughter Serena’s relationship with rich boy Massimiliano (Pinelli) to get closer to the his affluent family, eventually loans money from bank (with a false pretence) and invests it all with his own savings to the hedge fund through Giovanni (Gifuni), Massimiliano’s father, for the sake of rapid profit. Even Roberta’s pregnancy cannot deter him from the gamble. But, things will never be that easy (a pipe dream to good to be true), soon Dino is snubbed by Giovanni and the investment turns out to be a fatal failure.
Second chapter concerns Carla (Tedeschi), Giovanni’s wife, getting bored idling away her time, she recollects her passion as a thespian and requests Giovanni to reconstruct a dilapidated theatre and tries to run it. Yet, it also turns out to be a castle in the air, out of frustration and disappointment, she seduces Donato (Lo Cascio), a theatrical professor, into a one-night-stand (the same night the accident happens), the next day, she regrets it and ends it with ugly ramifications. A drunken Massimiliano is the main suspect of the accident, but he denies that he was behind the wheels and claims it is Serena who drove him home.
So the third chapter is about Serena (Gioli), with whom Massimiliano is one-sidedly infatuated, but in fact she is romantically attracted to a young offender Luca (Anzaldo), and sees his true colour under his notorious criminal record and outlandish appearance. Their untainted love is the last unpolluted place before entering the unsavoury adulthood, but it would undergo a big test, since one must pay for the crime, however unintentional it is.
In the final chapter, after all the melodramatic bedlam, Virzì levelheadedly rounds off the ending with a plausible denouement, Dino cunningly retrieves back his investment (with the promised profit and a detestable request for a kiss), Carla is back on stage as the perfect wife archetype with Giovanni as if nothing has happened as long as money can clear off any blockade in their way and Massimiliano’s charge is dropped, whereas Serena and Luca remain inseparable and hopefully their devotion is stronger than ever.
HUMAN CAPITAL is robustly engaging, the story is carefully organised, predictable nonetheless, there are certain moments are faintly stagy or off-putting. Rapid editing manages to leave no tedious repetition although we have to experience the same story three times, but the wobbly camera mobility may cause some fatigue and dizziness, especially in the last chapter.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Fabrizio Gifuni are the MVPs upstage the rest of the cast, it is utterly riveting to watch Carla transits her emotional arc from the convivial pretentiousness to the swearing outburst; and Gifuni’s Giovanni, never under the spotlight, but he sparks each scene with sharp astuteness and daunting callousness, validly counteracts the hammy nuisance from Bentivoglio’s Dino. Golino, if anyone remembers her from RAIN MAN (1988), subtly conveys a good-natured persona without ostentatious glamour, it is also reassuring that she has made quite a splash with her director debut HONEY (2013) last year.
At any rate, I am not quite rosy about its Oscar journey, a nomination seems to be a long-shot presently, but personally I always welcome those films with potent plot-development and a strong ensemble. Only if HUMAN CAPITAL could be more resiliently challenging to ridicule and censure its own soil of an unjust reality.