Human Capital is a beautifully choreographed examination of class and morality in contemporary Italy. Although the original novel by Stephen Amidon was based in a similarly affluent setting in the U.S.A, there’s nothing lost in translation.
A cyclist is run off the road and is in a critical condition and the primary suspect looking Massimilano Bernaschi (Guglielmo Pinelli) the son of rich investment banker Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni) and Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Director/co-writer Paolo Virzi and co-writers Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo tell the story of the events that led up to the incident told from the perspectives of Carla, Massmilano’s girlfriend Serena (Matilde Gioli) and Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), Serena’s father.
Dino is a status whore, yearning to bathe in ‘by association’ success. He’s a slimy damaged character, played with all his insipid glory by Mr. Bentivoglio. Ms. Bruni Tedeschi delivers a special performance as the air headed, ageing trophy wife Carla, that’s encouraged to spend disposable income and occupy herself while her husband Giovanni heads up his company’s money making pursuits. However, she’s not in a state of arrested development, she begins to gain a level of self-awareness and spirals into an engaging existential crises. The performance of the film is by Ms. Gioli as Serena. She’s the most fascinatingly implacable and unpredictable teen character. She has a kind of X-ray vision that immediately exposes the layers of pomp and greed draping her world. Apart from being a darkly beautiful she feels like a wholly independent, confident and real character that she just pops out of the rest of the picture. Valeria Golino (best known for Hot Shots and Hot Shots Part Deux) provides beautiful support as Serena’s step-mother Roberta, which skilfully parries and reacts across from both Serena and Dino throughout this mess. Mr. Virzi’s direction of performances and perspectives is excellent.
The opening two acts of Human Capital, kept me at arm’s length. While you’re certainly able to appreciate the characterisation and the choreography of divergent perspectives of these unfolding events, it’s in the closing act of the film, focusing on Serena that amplifies the emotion and exposes the hypocrisy. Writing team, Messers Virzi, Bruni and Piccolo, construct a scathing portrait of broken masculinity and the hollow pursuit of elevated levels of social position; but it’s not until you’re able to sink beneath the clouds of palatial mansions, chauffeured shopping excursions to casually spend thousands of dollars that you get to reflect on the contrast to ‘normal life.’
It would be easy to right off Human Capital, as ‘first world problems: the movie’, but when the ripples in the ponds of the rich crash life tsunamis on those in lower social brackets it’s riveting.
[rating=3] and a half
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Paolo Virzi
Written by: Paolo Virzi, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo based on the novel by Stephen Amidon
Starring: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Matilde Gioli, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Guglielmo Pinelli, Fabrizio Gifuni, Gigio Alberti, Valeria Golino, Luigi Lo Cascio, Giovanni Anzaldo,