Romance languages are distinguished by their familiar origins from Latin, a group that includes the standard French and Spanish – courses for which are offered in most high school classrooms – alongside Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Although the term “romance” does not equate to the romance that is celebrated once every February, as the ultimate predecessor of this linguistic family tree, it would make sense to coin Latin as the most romantic language of all.
It’s ironic, considering Latin has been dead for about 15 centuries now. Yet, people have proven to keep romance alive through its usage. The phrase “cor cordium,” for example, translates to “heart of hearts,” a reference to one’s most intimate desires. It’s been used countless times in literature, including André Aciman’s novel “Call Me By Your Name,” which has since been adapted into the Oscar-nominated film of the same title.
There are many reasons why I thoroughly enjoy “Call Me By Your Name” as a motion picture: its aesthetically-pleasing depiction of the Italian countryside; its charming portrayal of the infatuation between main characters Elio and Oliver; Timothée Chalamet’s performance and presence in general; technical details such as cinematography; and of course, its distinctive soundtrack.
“Mystery of Love,” “Visions of Gideon” and a Doveman remix of his song “Futile Devices” were all contributed by Sufjan Stevens, who wrote the first two songs exclusively for the film. Prior to being contacted by director Luca Guadagnino, Stevens had already made his mark in the music industry through the release of his indie folk album “Carrie & Lowell” in 2015. It was met with high critical acclaim from audiences including myself, who ended up developing a strong admiration for tracks like “Death with Dignity” and “Should Have Known Better.”
After being drawn to Stevens’ elaborate lyrical approach, Guadagnino’s decision to collaborate with the artist paid off exceptionally well. “Mystery of Love” in particular was nominated for numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Original Song as well as a Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
I can’t speak for all critics, but it’s easy to see the reasoning behind the song’s success. Incorporating his trademark acoustic guitar-plucking style, Stevens captures the delicateness of summer in Northern Italy against a passionate lyrical backdrop insinuating the relationship between Elio and Oliver. With the mention of Hephaestion and Alexander the Great — two well-known lovers of the past — Stevens introduces a motif of mythology within his lyrics, a callback to the Greek statues Elio and Oliver discover together during an archaeological trip. It’s a song that represents the nostalgic desire of an almost old-timey love and one that fits perfectly with this week’s intimate theme.
As someone who has yet to experience their own romantic story, there’s no reason not to enthuse about someone else’s. Regardless of it being fiction, “Call Me By Your Name” has a lot to say about intimacy, the consequences of intimacy and whether those repercussions are worth pursuing it in the first place. A week from now, people who have realized that worth will be commemorating their very own cor cordium. I think it’s certainly an occasion that merits celebration.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Sony Picture Classics on YouTube.