Picturehouse office manager Frances Taylor reviews this week’s Discover Tuesdays presentation of caustic Italian drama HUMAN CAPITAL.
Bluntly speaking, human capital is the fiscal amount assigned to a human life by an insurance company in the event of death. It is based on earning potential, knowledge and skills, and investment in family life or local community.
When an unknown cyclist is knocked down in a hit-and-run accident on the way home from work, director Virzì asks us to consider what a human life is worth.
He presents his multifaceted part-whodunnit, part-class critique in four chapters: Dino, Carla, Serena and Human Capital.
Virzì takes us through the twisted loyalties and betrayals of two families embroiled in financial woes. He invites his audience to judge the families’ capital – if someone were to be thrown in jail for the hit and run, who would we rather it be? Regardless of innocence or presumed guilt, are some lives worth saving more than others?
Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) has remortgaged his house without telling his wife, and is using the money to invest in Giovanni’s (Fabrizio Gifuni) dodgy hedge-fund schemes in an attempt to elevate his social and financial status.
Giovanni’s wife, Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), lives in the gilded prison of their mansion and pours her energies into running a dilapidated theatre, a pet project to compensate for her abandoned dreams of being an actress.
Dino’s teen daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) harbours affections for troubled, artsy Luca (Giovanni Anzaldo) – but she is called upon by her ex, Carla’s son Massi (Guglielmo Pinelli), when he’s too drunk to drive home. The interweaving stories come to a head with visits from the police.
It’s an intriguing journey, as the spotlight of guilt shifts from one character to the next and back again. These twists maintain the tension throughout the film. The characters can be unsympathetic; it’s difficult to be on the side of some wealthy people who may or may not be responsible for leaving a cyclist to die on the side of a road.
At least they’re all having a terrible time of it; posh porn is easier to watch if we can see that we’re better off in more important ways. Our kitchens may be mouldy, but at least they’re filled with laughter and love.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi won Best Actress at the Tribeca Film Festival, and deservedly so. She portrays Carla with a hopeless, understated misery. She’s at the behest of an emotionally neglectful husband, but wants to do the best for her son as she doesn’t know what to do with herself any more. She’s the most complex and captivating character in the film.
HUMAN CAPITAL is a gripping whodunnit which will make you reassess your priorities – and your seasonal materialism.