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Film review: Human Capital – life is cheap in riveting middle-class drama

Irrational, confused characters mirror reality in this Italian tale of haves and have-mores

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2015, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 11:42am

Riveting in an insidious way, this Italian drama continues the long-standing European filmmaking tradition of excoriating the bourgeoisie. Although most of the characters are unpleasant, and some are downright nasty, Human Capital still manages to realistically depict lives full of human fallibility, insecurity, jealousy, lust and anger.

Based on the book by Stephen Amidon, Paolo Virzì’s film – which is superior to most middle-class tales – is essentially a social drama which focuses on the differences between the middle classes and the rich, and ultimately decides that neither is very pleasant, but that’s just the way it is.

The story tells of an estate agent (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) who becomes linked with the family of a high financier (Fabrizio Gifuni) when their children start dating. Their lives become fractured when a business deal goes wrong, and a hit-and-run accident accentuates their differences even more. All the men act appallingly, and it’s left to various long-suffering wives and daughters to add a bit of compassion.

Virzì’s characters are far from the usual stereotypes, mainly because they go about their lives illogically, driven by fear, envy, desire, resignation and even apathy. People in movies usually act from clearly defined goals and motives, so it’s nice to see a film where the characters are just as confused and irrational as the rest of us.

Human Capital opens on December 10