BySean Conroy, writer at

Part social critique, part mystery, Paolo Virzi’s Human Capital is a superbly directed insight into the human condition. Adapted from the novel by the American writer Stephen Amidon which detailed the derailment of a middle class real estate agent, his involvement with a hedge fund manager, the estrangement from his daughter, and the lies he tells himself. The book written in 2004 examined, a society worshiping money, image and status whilst losing its soul in the process. It foreshadowed the financial crisis, Paolo Virzi recognising the rich social commentary loosely adapts the novel and creates a compelling relevant narrative in the process.

Virzi transfers the setting from Connecticut to Berlusconi’s Italy and it works, in this instance Varese, north of Milan. The story is told from three perspectives, the first chapter focuses on the father, Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), the second on Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), the wife of the fund manager, and the third on the daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli). The film begins by tracing a service worker riding home in the early morning being swiped by a car. We then experience the story from the three different character perspectives. In Chapter One, the middle aged Dino desperately yearns to have the wealth of his new found tennis partner and father of his daughters boyfriend, Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni). Dino mortgages his business to borrow the money, Carla refers to him as an idiot and he does nothing to dissuade the audience of this fact. His buffoonery is almost comic in its stupidity, and Bentivoglio has a ball with the role. The second chapter explores the life of a woman who has settled for empty riches at the sacrifice of everything else. Momentarily she indulges in her passion for the theatre, and an affair with a playwright. However she is too weak or broken to breakout of her comfortable existence. The final chapter explores Serena, who rejects the riches of her boyfriends world, recognising it means little of true meaning, instead she falls for the poor artist she meets at her step mothers (Valeria Golino) psychiatrist office.

The Human Capital has won seven awards at Italy’s version of the Oscars, with Virzi, Francesco Piccolo and Francesco Bruni taking home the award for best screenplay. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi won the best actress prize and Fabrizio Gifuni and Valeria Golino won the awards for supporting actor and actress. It is a fine ensemble of actors supported by rich source material and a director who knows how to handle adult material. Think the Academy Award winning film Crash but better.


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