In regards to films and series I’m someone who is drawn to the bizarre, mysterious, surrealistic, and slightly insane, topping my favourite list of movies and series are titles such as Batman: The Dark Knight (2008), Maniac (2018), Twin Peaks (1992-2017), and Black Swan (2010) etc, all leaving me feeling shaken to my core of fear and overwhelmed with the satisfaction of it all, it’s a mysterious kind of drug. However, the exception to this is Call Me By Your Name (2017).
Call Me By Your Name is based on the book, with the same title, released in 2007 by author André Aciman. It tells a coming of age story exploring matters of the human range of emotions, both beautiful and miserable, regarding relationships, sexuality, and primarily love depicting a whirlwind of a relationship between the two main characters. The film is a masterpiece by director Luca Guadagnino with wonderfully hurtful but beautiful original songs by Sufjan Stevens, a pastel colour palette that set the tone of the story perfectly, and a screenplay with such elegance it won an Academy Award. Both the film and the book can be discussed during endless hours only for their craftsmanship and other matters of production, such as storyline and characters depictions. The film can also applaud itself on forming one of the most well acted performances by lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who deliver electricity with their characters Elio and Oliver and mostly, the chemistry between them.
The plot explores and develops the theme of falling head over heels in love with someone, and what that entails. It explores sexuality, both in the matter of its definition but also like a phenomenon that forces human beings to obey and surrender to one’s desires. But what sets this story apart from other love stories for me, is the complete acceptance of love not only being the cause but often the reason of feelings of confusion, shame, and sadness. Call Me By Your Name explores not only the beauty of being in love, but the agony with it. To have such strong emotions towards one person isn’t always easy, it never is. This isn’t a mediocre feeling of liking someone, or the wholesomeness of loving someone dearly, this is the kind of feeling that knocks you over completely. The moment Elio fell in love with Oliver, he also fell apart. Every cell of him disintegrated into nothingness, an act so subversive he had to follow. Oliver, throughout the story, was completely controlling of Elio, not in his action but in his mere existence. And completely broken down, Elio had to rebuilt himself with Oliver within every cell of his body. Elio could never be the same. People might say that this is insanity and that love shouldn’t make you feel this strongly, and to a certain degree that is correct. To feel this strongly is highly self destructive, especially if the other person doesn’t share the experience. It knocks the power balance out of the game. However, emotions are not under human control, they are free spirits of chemicals that rush through people without needing consent of existing. And yes, feeling such love is truly insanity.
The book explores this insanity much deeper than the film, it can easily explained that while they both share the same core theme, love comes with pain, the film focuses more on the matter of that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved, but the book is centered around the idea that being in love is not only beautiful and happy. And while this separation is necessary for the film to have been received as it was, and it brings beauty to a specific topic of love, people who only have seen the film are missing out on a serious matter. The book dives deeper into Elio’s thoughts around his own feelings about being in love, much more personal than what Oliver ever is a part of. For being in love is so much seen as something you share, and while part of it is, a huge part of this feeling is only for oneself to explore and live with since you also have to live with yourself being in love, without the person you’re in love with. One’s whole personality might change, curb to the person one is in love with, and the fundamental feeling of existing is altered.
“I didn’t know what I was afraid of, nor why I worried so much, nor why this thing that could so easily cause panic felt like hope sometimes and, like hope in the darkest moments, brought such joy, joy with a noose tied around it. The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t” page 59
The insanity of being in love is not very often portrayed in medias of consumption, or at least any similar to Call Me By Your Name. The usual imagery of someone being crazily in love is slapstick comedy, while Elio’s emotions are stripped of any kind of humorous character. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s insane. And throughout the story it is never fully considered to straightforwardly wrong, the insanity of Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are depicted with such ease that it seems… given? And perhaps this is why the sad love story of Call Me By Your Name stands strong with my favourite films amongst more outspokenly insanity, the movie depicts something alternative to the very normative narrative of love and makes my personal emotions and experiences feel less… deranged.