Human Capital

*****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"She has nothing in common with the guy she is in a relationship with."
"Paolo Virzì's study of capitalism in crisis gives the audience all it covets."

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who won Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film at the Tribeca Film Festival as Carla and Valeria Golino as Roberta in Paolo Virzì's Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano) give brilliant performances entangled in a web of what is perhaps the most revolting selection of male characters in a film I have seen at least this year. Fabrizio Gifuni plays Giovanni and Fabrizio Bentivoglio is Dino. The respective husbands are corrupt each in their own way. The former a hedge fund finance power player, the latter a middle-class real estate agent who would like to be like the other, corruption and all.

On an evening right before Christmas in Northern Italy, a waiter at a school function is run over on his bicycle riding home in the snow. This hit and run tragedy links a number of people from different social backgrounds as Virzì's delicate and bewildering tale jumps back and forth from a summer past to the fateful winter night.

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Two families are tied together by an accident and their children. Serena (Matilde Gioli) and Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) have very little in common outside of school, and their relationship crumbles. Carla, Massimiliano's mother, is a woman who has great financial privileges and no emotional stability. Her life of manicures, massages and antiques shopping makes her feel increasingly worthless. This is reinforced by her husband, Giovanni, who communicates nothing of importance to her.

In an attempt to add some internal beauty for herself and the community - a small fictional town near Milan - Carla buys a run-down theatre in ruins she wants to renovate, and instead ends up falling into her familiar trap of meaningless seduction. A trenchant scene depicts a meeting of the newly formed theatre board and Virzì has great fun savoring the characters' whopping fixations while they discuss a possible repertoire. Anybody who has ever been to a board meeting will recognise someone here.

Roberta, on the other hand, a psychologist working at the public clinic, decides to be completely ignorant about the crumbling world of her family, especially the dealings of husband Dino, who wants to move up in the world.

Virzì, who told me at the Tribeca Film Festival that Human Capital was the first of the dozen films he made which did not classify as comedy, keeps a light touch with his heavy subject matter. The different perspectives are woven into a rich tapestry of the present world. Greed and unconsidered, reckless desires are by no means an Italian phenomenon.

Three perspectives, given one chapter each, illuminate disasters far greater and perhaps much smaller than the accident at hand and tell us about the nature of human capital. How much is a person worth? The script is based on a novel by American author Stephen Amidon which is set in Connecticut. The film takes place in a fictional town near Milan and was shot in Como and surroundings.

Paolo Virzì's study of capitalism in crisis gives the audience all it covets. Voyeurism is taken care of as we peek into the hearts and home of the stylish wealthy. Their life is actually hellish, we discover to our great relief. It is crumbling and causing the literal and metaphorical quakes we all feel. A class lower, the annoying guy with the garish orange watch and the "creative" facial hair and glasses is indeed a dope who doesn't communicate with his pregnant wife. Virzi confirms the worst.

Human Capital is a tale of people trapped in the wheels of money, prestige and unfulfilled longings, disguised as a thriller. Some create the wheels, some spin them and others run in them.

Reviewed on: 25 Apr 2014
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Human Capital packshot
The lives of two generations overlap as they tumble toward an ill-fated event that inextricably links them.
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Director: Paolo Virzì

Writer: Stephen Amidon, Paolo Virzì, Francesco Bruni, Francesco Piccolo

Starring: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Golino, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Bebo Storti, Gigio Alberti, Giovanni Anzaldo, Matilde Gioli, Guglielmo Pinelli, Pia Engleberth, Nicola Centonze, Silvia Cohen, Vincent Nemeth, Paolo Pierobon

Year: 2013

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy, France


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