Sunday, February 8, 2015

Human Capital

Based on a book by American author Stephen Amidon, Human Capital (Il capitale umano) tells the story of a hit-and-run on a bicyclist. Not really, but you'd kind of get that impression from the trailers and capsules.

This is actually a semi-Rashomon type story, where we see the accident from a distance, and then experience the surrounding events from the perspectives of Dino (Fabrizio Bentvoglio), a grasping middle-class real estate agent, Carla (Valerie Bruni Tedeschi), the wife of a rich financial-type guy, and Serena (Matilde Gioli), Dino's daughter.

It's not really a Rashomon because while perspective gives us a new story with new details that change our perspective, they don't really contradict each other. In fact, if there's a key theme to this story, it's that nobody knows what's going on with other peoples' lives.

Dino starts the ball rolling: His daughter (Serena) is dating the son of the rich financial guy (Carla's husband, Giovanni), and he sees in a passing amiability the opportunity to make it big by investing with Giovanni—something he really can't afford to do.

Dino is successful, and he thinks his success is proof of his intelligence. The funny thing to me about this was that even if an investment like the one Dino made was successful, he'd still be screwed because it's illiquid.

Our second perspective is that of Carla's. She's kind of aimless until she comes across a dilapidated theater, and gets it in her head to refurbish and reopen it. Her happiness is as tied up with her husband's fortune as Dino's is, but she's perhaps even less aware of how quickly things can go sour. Giovanni is an indulgent but not attentive husband, and her frantic day filling is relieved at the prospect of having something meaningful to do.

The third story is Serena's, and it is the one that provides the key to the mysteries and the stories' ultimate resolutions. Dino's awareness of her seems to not extend beyond her relationship with Massimiliano, Giovani's son, which is also true of Carla (who is no more aware of her son's life). If Dino is motivated solely by money, and Carla by art or perhaps fame, Serena's motivation is love. If there is a ray of hope in this movie, it comes from her, even when her story doesn't go so well.

Although generally well received, the complaints I've seen have regarded the murkiness of the theme. My take on that is: So much the better. As a condemnation of capitalism, this would be stupid. As a story about people whose lives intersect in various ways, it's fine melodrama.

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