“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste!” – Elio, Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman
Greetings bibliophiles, as promised, this month I shall be recommending Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman. This recommendation is going to be a little different, because I’m also going to talk about the movie quite a bit as well. As always, I will avoid major spoilers. Usually, the movie pales in comparison to the book. However, on this rare occasion, I really had to stop and think about that. If I’m honest, I’m still not sure which I liked best. So, I’ve stopped pitting them against each other and just accepted that I adore both. Each medium offer things the other simply can’t. There will always be more detail in the book, and the authors use of language is simply breath-taking in this novel. A book can transport you inside the mind of it’s narrator in a way that a movie can’t. However, the direction, soundtrack, and onscreen chemistry between the actors in this movie, really give the book a run for it’s money.
Call Me By Your Name was published in 2007. It is a coming of age tale set on the Italian Riviera in the 1980’s. It centres on 17-year-old Elio as he recalls his first real sexual awakening one sultry Italian summer. Elio’s personal journey begins with the arrival of Oliver, a 24-year-old American. Oliver is a postdoc, he teaches at Columbia and has come to stay at Elio’s parent’s cliff-side mansion to finish his manuscript. He is writing about the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Through no coincidence, the themes of this story can be found in the beliefs of this philosopher. Heraclitus believed that everything originates with fire, that permanence is merely an illusion, and everything is in a constant state of change. Time and love, and the relationship between these two things, play a heavy role in this novel.
Elio is instantly captivated by Oliver. He is both turned-on and irritated by Oliver’s carefree and casual manner. His Americanisms such as the phrase “Later” both bother and thrill him. Although there are many cultural differences between the pair, Elio is excited to learn that Oliver, like him, is Jewish. He longs to impress him, and even though he's younger, he is more than capable of matching Oliver’s wit and intelligence. Elio is very much an old soul. Oliver is blown away by his knowledge and maturity. However, when he expresses this to Elio, the 17-year-old reveals that in his mind, he knows nothing of any importance. Elio feels this way because he knows nothing of love, or sex. I think this makes him feel inferior to Oliver, and he very much wants to be viewed as an equal. He is no longer a child, but he doesn’t feel he’s a man yet either. Both characters take turns feigning disinterest in one another, but the chemistry between them is undeniable, and it’s only a matter of time before they give in to desire. What occurs over the duration of just 6 weeks between these two people, will change them forever. Sometimes, the bonds we make can transcend time and space.
This was without a doubt the sexiest book I have ever read. Although, I will never look at a peach the same way again. This is a story about love, desire, and sexuality. Ultimately, I believe it is not just a story, but a study, of human intimacy. Throughout this novel, these two men are intimate in every way humanly possible, and this cements a bond between them, eternally.
The onscreen adaption of this masterpiece was directed by Luca Guadanino and written by James Ivory. Both the writing and direction do a flawless job of capturing the novels essence. They do not attempt to butcher or simplify the books complex and subtle themes. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival and was met with widespread critical acclaim. It was nominated at the 2017 Academy awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song (Mystery of Love by Sufjan Stevens). The praise is well deserved. The cinematography is stunning. It’s artistic and sensual and pays many a nod to the book. I love when the camera pans over the bathroom, with all of Oliver’s different coloured bathing trunks laid out, even though the significance of Oliver’s array of coloured trunks is never really revealed in the movie, this subtle little nod will make fans of the books smile.
However, what truly makes this movie for me, is the onscreen chemistry between Timothee Chalamet (Elio) and Armie Hammer (Oliver). Both actors give powerful and believable performances. Their chemistry is electric, the best I’ve seen in cinema this year. They really capture the passion and heat between these two characters, but also the delicacy and vulnerability. This movie also featured, what is in my opinion, the best movie soundtrack this year. Every piece of music featured in this film is perfect. It really sets the tone. It is haunting, romantic, seductive, delicate and beautiful. I am forever thankful to it for bringing the music of Sufjan Stevens into my life. Mystery of Love, Futile Devices, and Visions of Gideon, are all tracks by this incredibly talented artist, which appear in the film. If you’ve never heard of Sufjan Stevens, I urge you to check him out.
So, there we have it, I won’t say anymore, other than…
then watch it,
then listen to it,
and fall in love with it all of it.
This book, this movie, and this soundtrack have nestled their way into my soul, and like all great art, I feel a little changed by them. In three words, this story is powerful, sexy and intimate. Until next time, may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry.
“He came. He left. Nothing else had changed. I had not changed. The world had not changed. Yet nothing would be the same. All that remains is dreammaking and strange remembrance.” – Elio, Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman