Adele Wong
by Adele Wong

When we think of Italian cinema, we think of opulence, dramatically stunning visuals… and Giuseppe Tornatore

The Best Offer has familiar Tornatore imprints all over it, with the themes of art, May-December romances, beautiful cinematography and handsome clothes all sewn together with the brilliance of Ennio Morricone’s score. 

The Best Offer

What is different this time is that Tornatore is not telling a Sicilian tale (unlike Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Baarìa and Malèna) but instead sets this film in the most beautiful cities in modern Europe, breeding inspiration for artists and romantics alike. We are unable to pin down an exact location, but instead it is something admirable and mysterious – just like the object of obsession in the film, Claire Ibbetson, a reclusive heiress.

Geoffrey Rush plays Virgil Oldman (and convincingly looks the part), an art auctioneer, who has such a talented eye and discernment for art that he is, of course, eccentric, not particularly fond of human interaction, and yet is captivated by his latest client, Ibbetson. And just to raise the stakes in the unusual sexual tension portrayed, did we also mention he is a virgin? 

If you enjoyed the romanticism of cinema in one of Tornatore’s greatest works, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, you will probably enjoy the plethora of artwork featured in The Best Offer. In fact, the film is so elegantly shot that you could pause at any random point and chances are you will see a scene framed handsomely enough to be a piece of still art itself. It is no wonder that the Director of Photography, Fabio Zamarion, was nominated for Best Cinematography at several awards, and that the film won the 58th David de Donatello Awards for Best Sets and Decorations. While the visuals in the film are expensive, they succeed in creating the magic that they are meant to weave and justify the $18 million the film took to make.

The Best Offer has also consistently won awards for best score, so although some might find that the film takes longer than necessary to unfold a story of mystery and love with a twist, the reason is clear, for the filmmaker has chosen a scenic and melodic path to get us there. 

Tornatore uses one of the most romantic mediums, art, to tackle one of the most painful questions that all lovers seek – authenticity. What is real? In a piece of art, we have the ability to choose what we want to see and to impose our own emotions on the work. Is it the same with love? When we see a person and we barely know them, do we impose our own experiences so that we end up identifying with them and feeling connected to them? This is perhaps one of the most interesting questions the film left me with.

One of the best lines in the film spells it out best,  “Human emotions are like works of art. They can be forged. They seem just like the original, but they're a forgery.” This level of foreshadowing is a perfect comparison of the evocative emotions derived from art and the experience of loving an enigmatic creature like Ibbetson, and also blurs the lines between the fantastical and the logical.

Check out the trailer of Tornatore's upcoming documentary The Glance of Music, which feature the world's greatest film composer Ennio Morricone, a collaborator with Tornatore since Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.