By Marshall Shaffer
“Human Capital” begins with an unsuspecting waiter getting run off the side of an Italian road and being left for dead. Surprisingly, this is one of the least interesting things the film has to offer.
Writer/director Paolo Virzì weaves a tale of two families in Northern Italy clearly separate by wealth and class, not to mention power and prestige. The Ossolas are the middle-class striving for better status and standing, while the Bruneschis are comfortably entrenched in their lavish lifestyle. When the husbands, wives, daughters, and sons get entangled in a dangerous game where personal vices put everyone’s position at stake.
Rather than crosscut all their stories into one sprawling opus, Virzì divides them into four sections from a different person’s perspective. This more novel, unconventional approach breathes some wind into the sails of “Human Captial.” Heck, it even somewhat recalls early films of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, such as “Amores Perroes.”
Overall, he provides a biting and quite incisive look at structural class differences that feels applicable to societies other than Italy. That makes sense when considering that “Human Capital” is based on an American novel (written by an alumnus of my own Wake Forest University, no less) and transferred across continents. These are the kinds of stories and themes that filmmakers in the United States are neglecting, and rather shamefully so in a post-Occupy Wall Street world. For all those looking for a chronicle of class conflict after exhausting all the F. Scott Fitzgerald canon, this film would make a more than satisfying selection.
“Human Capital” is running now at a/perture Cinemas downtown. Find tickets and showtimes HERE.
Marshall Shaffer is a senior at Wake Forest University specializing in film and media studies. He has been writing film reviews and other cinematic commentary on his blog Marshall and the Movies since 2009, and his work has also been syndicated on The Christian Science-Monitor. He keeps going through it because he needs the eggs. You can read more of his reviews HERE.