By Xander Brett, First Year, History of Art and French
The Croft Magazine // Gap Year retracing the steps of Call Me By Your Name protagonist, Elio, in the sleepy rural Italian town of Crema.
Call Me By Your Name was a commercial and critical success, grossing almost $42 million at the box office. It cemented director Luca Guadagnino’s place as a visionary and made actor Timothée Chalamet a household name for his role as Elio, a teenager coming of age. What made the biggest impression, however, was the film’s location: Crema in Lombardy, northern Italy, a sleepy town perfectly suited to the film’s narrative.
Surprisingly, André Aciman, author of the 2007 novel, didn’t set his narrative here, but on the glamorous shores of the Italian Riviera. Guadagnino moved the setting to Crema so filming could be closer to his house. The cast rented flats in the town during shooting, frequently spending evening at Guadagnino’s palazzo. It was in Crema that Chalamet met his co-star Armie Hammer, who plays Oliver, his older lover, for the first time. As they had not been required to do a screen test together, the couple spent a month in Crema eating at local restaurants, touring the area and watching documentaries.
With the scale of production team required by blockbusters descending on a town of just over 30,000 for over thirty three days, one would expect the locals to have become disorientated, confused, even angry at the disruption it caused, rather than thankful for the publicity it provided. When it came to it, however, the people of Crema embraced production. Locally recruited extras braved poor weather to mingle in the background of shots and businesses, forced to close so their shops could be made to look more eighties, were compensated for lost hours. In fact the locals were so quiet about filming that the national press only found out two weeks after the first take.
I visited Lombardy last May as part of my gap year, travelling to Milan, Lake Como, Bergamo (where scenes for Elio and Oliver’s weekend away were filmed), Crema, Cremona and Brescia (near where scene on Lake Garda was filmed). I hadn’t intended to take in any of the film’s locations, but ended up doing so at every turn. I had an espresso on the same table as Elio and Oliver and walked the same cobbled streets as them in Bergamo. But despite the film’s success, and my excitement discovering the sites, locals still seemed rather passé about it. Though Sicilian by birth, Guadagnino has lived in Crema for years, and has been fully adopted by locals. He eats in local restaurants, drinks in local bars and gets involved in community projects in his spare time.
He’s a simply a friend to the people of Crema, not a saviour of its tourist board. But, though the people of Crema may not think, or want it, as the film’s legacy is secured, visitor numbers are set to dramatically increase. Though much of Lombardy is culturally insignificant and often visually unappealing, Crema is a mere forty minutes from Milan, and well connected by road and rail, making it an easy day trip for fans. In fact, a Call Me By Your Name tour has already been launched. When I was there, though, that hadn’t materialised, and foreign tourists were inexistent. Tractors clogged the cobbled streets, the air smelled of cow dung, the food was fantastic and nobody spoke English. It was agricultural, and authentically Italian. Having hopped from one overcrowded tourist honeypot to another, I relished it. I only that in a few months, as the masses descend, I still can.
Featured Image: Epigram / Xander Brett