Italian Summer | Guadagnino’s Film, Call Me By Your Name
And take a trip through sumptuous countryside, Lake Garda and the Serio Waterfalls
Photo: Call Me By Your Name Film Still
If Luca Guadagnino isn’t already in the pay of the Italian tourist board, he should be. His 2009 film I Am Love showcased the incredible, modernist glamour of Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan. In 2015, he whisked cinema goers off to Pantelleria, “the black pearl of the Mediterranean” and the location for his drama A Bigger Splash. Now, Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, an adaptation of the André Aciman novel, is as much a paean to sun-drenched Italian summers as it is to the magic of first love.
The Oscar-tipped film sees romance blossom between 17-year-old Italian American Elio [Timothée Chalamet] and his father’s intern, 24-year-old American Oliver [Armie Hammer] during the family’s vacation in northern Italy, summer 1983. And the Italian flatlands where Guadagnino sets his scene fan the flames of desire. “It cannot be generic,” the director says of his location choice. “Perhaps the people who inhabit the space, become the people they become also because of the relationship they have with the space they live in.”
Truman Capote described the discombobulating effects of youthful desire as an experience where “love, having no geography, knows no boundaries.” And so it is in Call Me by Your Name. As soon as Oliver arrives at the Pearlman residence, a 17th century villa east of Milan, a mutual exploration of the space between each other begins between he and Elio. The pace is unhurried; the slow build aided by the fact that they have little to do but sunbathe in short shorts and Ray Bans, take midnight swims and long bicycle rides or, memorably in Oliver’s case, dance to Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way at the local late night disco.
The physical geography is significant. While Aciman’s 2007 novel is set in the postcard perfect Liguria on the Italian Riviera, Guadagnino moves the scene to the more understated Crema, Lombardy where he lives. “I wanted to have that kind of watery and lazy enveloping of these flatlands,” the director says of the location’s mood.
Much of the slow-burn romance unfolds at the Perlman holiday home, set in a real-life uninhabited family home in Moscazzano, a few minutes from Crema. Guadagnino was so taken with the location he had wanted to buy it himself; he also felt the locale shed light on the fictional, highly-cultured family itself. “The Perlmans are really immersed in country life, the very sensual feeling of being part of nature,” he says.
That spirit of engagement spilled over into the cast and crew’s downtime. The actors lived in Crema before the shoot began, getting into the rhythms of Lombardian life. Crema is a walkable city, there are few cars around and the architecture has endured for several hundred years. For Guadagnino, this all proved alluring.
“Crema has a sense of timelessness that I like, but I also think that it is quintessentially Italian without being an idea of Italy. It’s just Italy. A lot of these Hollywood movies made in Italy look as fake as a chocolate coin. It’s a danger I don’t want to risk. For me it’s important you make the thing that looks the most correct and the most real.”
A number of popular tourist attractions do make an appearance in Call Me by Your Name. The Perlmans make an excursion to Lake Garda, the site of an archaeological dig. There is also a trip further east for Elio and Oliver to the Serio Waterfalls, outside the city of Bergamo for a lush sequence at Italy’s tallest water feature. Those familiar with the book will note that Guadagnino has swapped the bustle of Rome for Bergamo in his adaptation, the director wanting to go somewhere where there were no distractions from first love.
“They go to a place where there are no words,” he says of the Serio scene. “They go to a place where they just interact with nature because I thought it was a moment of absolute surrender to their own intimacy.”
As the young men move closer to consummation by way of a now infamous incident with a peach, the director indulges in an extended scene of Elio and Oliver cycling around the countryside. Though it is no plot driver, the sequence proves to be one of Call Me by Your Name’s most abiding.
For the director, the scene had a neat symmetry to it. “We are getting closer and closer to the moment they decide finally that they cannot resist anymore one another. It’s all around Crema,” Guadagnino says. “We could make a map and you can see the lovers; they go to Moscazzano and they go to Crema and start a gentle biking around so they make a heart shaped journey around.”
Call Me by Your Name is in cinemas from 27 October