Human Capital (Italy)

2013 Italy

SUNDAY 6 September 10.00 am
TUESDAY 8 September 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 109 minutes


On a wet night in Italy’s affluent north, a waiter is run off the road by an SUV and killed. The fates of two families of very different social standing become irrevocably entwined.


Director and co-writer Paolo Virzi adapts a novel by American author Stephen Amidon, transferring its location from the United States to Italy and restructuring its events, but retaining its eloquent critique of contemporary values. Human Capital is a story of lives affected by forces they don’t understand, a tale of wealth and its lure, of indifference and cupidity, of the paradox of seeking success and betting on failure.

The film presents a tale of events stretching out over six months from four points of view, with a coda that brings things to a kind of resolution. Its first subject is Dino (Fabrizio Bentifoglio), who has a small real estate business and feels a pang of envy when he sees the wealth and easy sense of entitlement that his daughter’s boyfriend is surrounded by. He can’t help wanting a part of it, and does his best to parlay a chance moment of inclusion into something more, something he thinks he can benefit from financially.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays the boyfriend’s mother, Carla, a former actress who feels remote from the sources of the family wealth and uncertain about a decision as seemingly straightforward as how to fill her day. When, in the course of a shopping expedition, she comes across a historic theatre in danger of demolition, she feels as if she has found some kind of mission.

Dino’s daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli), who is about to finish high school, is not as dazzled as her father by her boyfriend’s family. But it’s not clear, at first, where her loyalties or commitments lie, and why she is so elusive, so hard to pin down, running from one destination to another. Of all the major characters in this ensemble film, she’s the one with the greatest capacity for change, it turns out.

A hit-and-run accident that happens at the beginning of the film becomes both a plot point and a symbol in a pervasive atmosphere of careless brutality. A cyclist is knocked down and seriously injured late one night; it’s not clear who is responsible. The ellipses in the story and the behaviour of several characters leave us guessing.

Human Capital, Italy’s entry in the foreign film category 2015 Academy Awards, is an elegantly indignant film, sleek and stylish looking, restrained but never equivocal in the way it depicts a flawed moral world. Its shifts of tone include moments that are both poignant and comic in Bruni Tedeschi’s search for a theatrical cause. Towards the end, the solution of the mystery takes up a little too much of the film’s energies, but the resolution is not entirely predictable, and deftly explored.