Saverio Costanzo adapted the novel The Indigo Child (Il Bambino Indaco) by Marco Franzoso, changing names and location for Hungry Hearts (Cuori Affamati, 2014) but keeping the main theme intact: the love and passion between a man and a woman, and the claustrophobic lifestyle that ensued after the birth of their baby, marred by obsessive behaviours.
Costanzo played with different cinematic genres: you can detect a wink to Hitchcock, one to Spaghetti Western, a homage to Italian Realism and some light arthouse touches. Talking of the latter, in particular, look out for the beautiful photography and my favourite scene, which is probably only two seconds long, where there is a perfect symmetry of bodies: she crouches to the floor, kneeling and protecting her child; he crouches behind her, in exactly the same position, representing his desperation.
An almost perfect film – it could have done with possibly 15 minutes less, with an unexpected plot twist (that is, if you haven’t read the book, which I haven’t).
You are almost forced into taking sides: who is right? Mina, the protective mother who knows best and wants the best for her child? Jude, the husband who is so totally besotted with his wife that also wants the best for his child but has opposing views on how to look after him?
We have two polar opposites with a supporter of alternative medicine and detoxing on one hand (Mina) and the rational supporter of conventional medicine on the other (Jude). Then there’s the mother in law Anne, played by Roberta Maxwell (Brokeback Mountain, Dead Man Walking). I won’t give you any spoilers.
New York, in all its glorious toxicity, is the evil, noisy, smelly, polluted metropolis so a baby should never get in touch with the outside world and live off carefully-nurtured organic vegetables grown in an especially-build greenhouse in the rooftop terrace.
New York is also the hub for the best paediatricians and doctors that good money can buy.
The audience is lead into taking sides with Jude but surely the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I found this film to be extremely accomplished and a realistic representation of cultural differences.
The soundtrack was a weird mix of popular culture (Flashdance – What a Feeling got people giggling in the audience), Hitchcockian orchestral arrangements, Domenico Modugno’s Tu si ’na cosa grande and original music. Talking of Tu si ’na cosa grande, it accompanies two main moments in the film (again, I won’t give you any spoilers).
Domenico Modugno, Ti Si ‘Na Cosa Grande, 1964
On a side note: at the BFI screening, a few rows in front of me, sat actor Bill Nighy – I thought it was good to see an experienced actor like him finding out about new film directors and new productions. If he collaborates with Costanzo in the future, you will know why!