From ‘Challengers’ to ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ Luca Guadagnino’s Films Go Beyond

Two pals indulge in churros in ‘Challengers’ (2024). You’re familiar with the scene, it’s steamy and suggestive, without being explicit — or is it? Meals in movies are often heightened with crisp sounds and tantalizing close-ups, offering more than just a feast for the eyes. They often symbolize deeper themes within the narrative. ‘The Menu’ (2022) serves up fine dining as a tale of revenge within the culinary world.

In ‘The Taste of Things’ (2023), the art of cooking becomes intertwined with the passionate connection between two mature lovers. When it comes to food in Luca Guadagnino’s films, it’s not just about the taste; it’s a reflection of characters embracing or resisting their desires.

Also Read: ‘Challengers’ Redefines Sexy in Cinema 

Luca Guadagnino Films
Image Courtesy: Out Magazine

Luca Guadagnino honed his craft with 2009’s ‘I Am Love’, a romantic drama where food plays a pivotal role. The film revolves around Emma, a Russian immigrant married into the Italian aristocracy, who discovers her longing for freedom through an affair with a chef. Sensual scenes, like Emma savouring a prawn dish, underscore her yearning for liberation.

Food becomes a metaphor for Emma’s struggle to reclaim her identity and pursue her desires, contrasting her repressive marriage with the passionate connection she finds with the chef.

Luca Guadagnino Films
Image Courtesy: IMDb

‘A Bigger Splash’ (2015), the second instalment in Guadagnino’s ‘Desire’ trilogy, offers a darker portrayal of food preparation. Here, invasive behaviour takes centre stage as Harry intrudes on his ex-lover’s vacation, making a mess in the kitchen. Unlike the romanticized meals of ‘I Am Love’, the food in ‘A Bigger Splash’ reflects tension and dysfunction within relationships.

In ‘Call Me by Your Name’, food serves as a backdrop for key moments in the characters’ lives. Oliver’s adaptation to the Perlman estate is marked by his struggle with a soft-boiled egg, mirroring his growing closeness with Elio. However, it’s the symbolism of fruit, particularly peaches, that resonates deeply. Elio’s intimate encounter with a peach becomes a metaphor for his exploration of sexuality and desire, capturing the nuances of his sexual awakening.

Luca Guadagnino Films
Image Courtesy: IMDb

In ‘Suspiria’ (2018), food takes on a more sinister tone, reflecting the film’s supernatural horror elements. Meals serve as moments of realism amidst the otherworldly events of the story, culminating in scenes of body horror and ritualistic cannibalism. The ominous focus on food underscores the film’s themes of power and transformation.

‘Bones and All’ (2022) explores themes of desire and taboo through the lens of cannibalism. The film’s characters navigate complex emotions and relationships, with food serving as a metaphor for their intense desires. From playful flirtations over churros to scenes of ritualistic consumption, food becomes a powerful symbol of longing and intimacy in Guadagnino’s cinematic universe.

– Farheen Ali