Reviews - Human Capital
Reviewed By Ian Payne
And so it was with Human Capital. What starts out as a tale of greed and opportunism turns into something altogether more complex in Paolo Virzi's excellent adaptation of a Stephen Amidon novel.
The starting point is a collision between a vehicle and a cyclist, late at night and we see the story unfold from the perspective of three characters, each chapter revealing a little more about the accident and interlocking lives of the protagonists.
We start with Dino, a grasping Estate Agent who seeks to profit, both financially and socially, from his daughter's relationship with the errant son of a wealthy banking family, the Bernaschis. So far, so familiar – having mortgaged the house, the chances of Dino's investment in Bernaschi's Hedge Fund paying the promised dividends was always going to be remote, but avarice makes you blind.
However in the marbled splendour of the banker's house is Carla – an unfulfilled trophy wife who gave up a promising acting career for the rugged good looks and quite possibly, the fortune of Signor Bernaschi. Desperate for a meaningful role in life she embarks on a project to save a theatre, which nonetheless requires the financial patronage of her husband. Crucially, it is her involvement in the project (or at least with another member of the committee) that prevents her from collecting her drunken son, Massimillio, from a party on the night of the accident.
Then there is Serena, Dino's daughter. Central to the mystery, the film revolves around her. Her relationship with Massimillio is not quite what it seems to both sets of parents and it she is determined to keep her secret. Matilde Gioli who plays Serena is the stand out performance of the film and you are left to wonder how a character as odious as Dino could father such a spirited and beautiful girl.
The denouement of the film comes as the financial markets crash and after one more awful betrayal of his family by Dino, to save his own skin. As for the rich folk at the top of the hill, well, life goes on.
Human Capital combines the elegance that you would expect from its setting in moneyed Milan with a complex and taughtly-told mystery that has more to do with love than power. It was Italy's entry for the best foreign language Oscar and having seen the shortlisted films Two days, One Night, Ida and Leviathan earlier in the Film Club season, Human Capital is not out of place in that sort of company. Praise indeed.
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