Human Capital – Film Review

Paolo Virzi's twisting Italian drama humanises the carnage of capitalism against the backdrop of the financial crash

Paolo Virzi’s Italian drama Human Capital, based on the 2004 novel by American author Stephen Amidon, crafts a story told from multiple points of view twisting love, class and ambition around the true-life onset of the late noughties financial crash. Following the fates of two families that become intertwined – when a cyclist is critically injured during a hit and run – we meet a desperate middle-aged social climber, a bored super rich housewife and a mysterious schoolgirl who lives a double life.

The first chapter follows average Joe estate agent Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) whose daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) is seemingly besotted by her private school boyfriend Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli). His penchant for drink driving puts him in the frame for the hit and run. ‘Massi’ is the son of wealthy hedge-fund manager Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni) whom Dino befriends. Mortgaging his house to join a get rich quick scheme the seeds seem sewn for Dino’s downfall. Meanwhile, Giovanni’s wife Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) spends her husband’s ill-gotten gains restoring a theatre and trying to reconnect with her artistic dreams. Virzi’s film reveals the arrogance of the rich as Carla realises she sold herself out years ago to a cold-hearted man. “You bet on the downfall of this country and you won,” she chides while still accepting the hand-outs his morally bankrupt career provides.

But it’s the third act told from the point of view of Serena that unlocks the mysteries and shows the contrast between the haves and have-nots and the price we pay for our choices. The film’s title refers to the value of compensation insurance companies place on a person’s life based on earning capacity, life expectancy and quantity/quality of emotional bonds – the human capital. Virzi’s compellingly bleak analysis attempts to humanise the carnage of capitalism and, though prone to melodrama, will make you consider the sad fact that in some ways we all boil down to the sum of our financial worth.