Call Me by Your Name: An Experience that Leaves a Mark
It’s difficult to describe what it means to see Call Me by Your Name and how difficult it is to put all the emotions this film makes us relive into words. And I say relive because Call Me by Your Name is more than a movie. It’s a dialogue with our inner child, with ourselves. It’s an experience, a nostalgic memory of those idyllic summers that seemed to have no end. Also, it’s a declaration of love to human nature, life, simplicity, our bodies, experiences, desire, and first love.
Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, was one of the most talked-about films of 2017. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was screened in many other festivals. It received four Academy Award nominations and won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
A subtle theme in a natural movie
The story that Guadagnino presents to us makes us forget the gay theme. It takes everything to a more intimate and personal level, making this movie a summer love story. Unlike many films of the same theme, Call Me by Your Name is not a melodrama. It’s natural, beautiful, and emotional.
In an increasingly dehumanized world where human relationships flourish through a screen; where books are nothing more than a strange, forgotten, and dusty decoration on a bookshelf; where cinema only serves to fascinate us with its expensive special effects; also, where we act like zombies and form long lines to consume media; and where we feel society is cold and lacks feelings, humanity, and self-criticism…
In the midst of all this appears Call Me by Your Name. It splashes us with cold water and pleasantly awakens us from that artificial paradise in which we live, reminding us of what makes us human.
The Call Me by Your Name experience
Elio is a young teenager who comes from an American, Italian, French, and Jewish family. He spends his summers with his parents in an idyllic house in northern Italy, not far from Lake Garda. His father is a university archeology professor and, every year, he invites one of his graduate students to stay with his family in Italy. This year, the family welcomes Oliver, a Jewish and American student. A special bond emerges between Elio and Oliver. Both experience an intense summer in which they discover themselves.
Elio is in a stage of complete sexual awakening and discovering his own body. We follow the story through Elio as if it were projected onto ourselves. Elio is a different young man. He has grown up in a multicultural environment. His parents are very educated people and he has always taken refuge in books and music, for which he has a special talent. He’s introverted and intelligent. He seems to know everything… except feelings.
Call Me by Your Name is natural and sincere. It invites us to relive our experiences. We recognize ourselves in Elio and desire Oliver as much as he does. That desire is described without shame or artifice. We see this in the magic of their first kiss, in which Elio doesn’t know what to do with his mouth. And we also see this in the most intimate scenes in which Elio, without needing to say a word, conveys a whole series of sensations we can identify with.
A movie about love, desire, and sexual awakening
The film isn’t just a love story. It’s a never-before-seen description of desire, of that first call of sexuality, that discovery of one’s body that means we’ll never be children again.
For Elio, this desire is confusing. He’s torn between Marzia and Oliver, but he finally realizes that he feels something really intense with Oliver, something he never felt for Marzia. The homosexual theme goes almost unnoticed despite it being the central theme. The film’s naturalness makes us overlook it. It becomes absolutely normal. It’s like everyday life.
All of the sensations make us recall our own experiences. We remember someone or something, a sensation, an odor, a taste. The spectator stops being a spectator and participates in Elio’s experience. You can almost touch, feel, and get inside the movie.
Call Me by Your Name transforms the spectators’ habitual passivity. It immerses us in a story where nothing exceptional happens, a story where no intrigues exist. But neither seem necessary. Elio becomes part of us, a mirror we can use to look at our own youth.
The magic of summer
The Northern Italy setting, along with a magical teen summer, are the foundations of this love story. Call Me by Your Name reminds us of those summers where time seems to stop and makes it seem like there’s no other world but the villa and its surroundings.
Guadagnino wanted to tell an amazing story, and he undoubtedly succeeded. He makes us forget the world that surrounds us during the film. We remember idyllic summers, those in which we made new friends or reconnected with old ones. Those were the summers in which we first discovered love, smoked our first cigarette, or went out to dance for the first time.
Every moment of Elio’s summer feels like ours. However, we know that every summer has an end. As a consequence, the love stories that emerge during this period have an expiration date. That expiration date makes us perceive summers as magical moments. The film is also magical based on what we can almost perceive through our senses: the sun, the smell of coffee, touching a peach, the magic of parties, and the water in a river.
If Elio had silenced his feelings or hadn’t listened to his desire, this story wouldn’t have been the same. Talk or die? The question looms in the entire film, but Elio decides to not keep his secret. Without saying much at all, he breaks his silence. Sometimes, we hide our feelings and identity. Call Me by Your Name reminds us of our most human side. This movie invites us to talk about our feelings.
It’s set in 1983, when we still didn’t know what the Internet was and when books were still powerful. It makes us nostalgic. It makes us take a trip to the past, to those summers in which we met who we thought would be the love of our lives. Elio knows everything, but knows nothing of what’s really important.
Say the right thing, because less is more. That’s Call Me by Your Name, a film that manages to draw the invisible and say the ineffable without taboos. More than a movie, it becomes an experience.
“Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.”
-Elio, Call Me by Your Name-