Call Me By Your Name & The Italian Charm

By Tia Affleck

‘Somewhere in Northern Italy’

Those are the words with which we are introduced to Call Me by Your Name. It’s just a vague hint at a setting, yet it somehow perfectly encapsulates the dreamy timelessness of the story’s central romance. There is something wonderfully seductive about Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel, which tells of a romantic relationship in 1983 Italy between 17 year old Elio Perlman and his father’s assistant, Oliver. It is a pure and atmospheric encapsulation of memory, the art of seduction and, at the heart of it all, the stomach-turning feelings of a first desire.

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In Luca Guadagnino’s 2017 film adaptation of the novel, the director explores Elio and Oliver’s relationship, one born of relentless infatuation and admiration. As we follow the sequence which begins with Elio and Oliver alluding to their admiration of one another and ends with their first kiss, one thing that remains consistent throughout, despite the change of setting, is the colouring in the atmosphere. There is a recurring use of green, yellow and light blue, the soft tones of the Italian countryside evoking the bright and promising feeling of a first desire. Its verdant gardens, cobbled streets, Italiante-style architecture and secluded swimming ponds are sure to ignite a certain desire in viewers—and not just a longing for an all-consuming romance long gone or for a breathless future dalliance. The desire might just as well be for something simpler: to escape to this unpretentious culture, where the distractions of everyday life seem distant and irrelevant.

Italy is ultimately the perfect setting for a romance such as Oliver and Elio’s – their intimate and fleeting relationship becomes a part of the culture, the timelessness and the tranquil atmosphere of the small town of B., whose half-closed shutters and unobtrusive residents allow their relationship to blossom.

Call Me By Your Name is a perfect example of how fictional stories can use a country’s culture to further the authenticity of their narrative and portray how a culture can have an impact on our experience and emotions, leaving us wanting to go out and explore this way of life for ourselves.
Maybe one day… Later.

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