Let’s admit it: No matter how much people make fun of loners, they make for some of the most interesting and fascinating characters in cinema. A few of them have even been turned into iconic characters: Charles Forster Kane, James Bond, Travis Bickle and Neil McCauley to name a few. The protagonist in Paolo Sorrentino’s critically acclaimed second film The Consequences of Love is one such character. But whether this character (and the film) deserves iconic status or not, only time will tell. Toni Servillo (who also starred in The Great Beauty) plays Titta di Gerolimo, a middle-aged, introverted and impeccably dressed man living a quiet and solitary existence inside a Swiss hotel. He spends a better part of the day sitting by the front window of the hotel bar (he always prefers the corner seat) and tries to avoid conversations as much as he can. He doesn’t venture out much but occasionally spends time at the lake adjacent to the hotel.
However, some of the residents in the hotel become curious and take an interest in him. They attempt to strike a conversation or two with him. One man asks him what he does and he lies. When the man senses this, he tells him that the truth is boring. He manufactures such lies on more than one occasion. Sometimes, he spends time playing cards with a loud elderly couple living in the next room. We learn that at one point they used to be immensely wealthy and eventually lost everything as a result of the husband’s gambling addiction. Titta listens to their rants and innermost desires and we begin to wonder if he has been entertaining such thoughts himself. The lady who cleans his room daily and the girl tending the bar, Sofia, wants his attention too but he is indifferent. At one point, Sofia asks him if he is even aware of her existence. But all he does is maintain a poker-face and walk away. Here the audience is used as the confessor to whom Titta reveals his secrets and his state of mind.
He tells us that he is insomniac and that he has a heroin addiction. Once in a while, a mysterious woman in sunglasses shows up with a briefcase filled with millions of cash, which he is to take to an undisclosed location for counting and later, deposited in a bank. Also, he has a gun concealed inside his television set. One day, his younger brother shows up and we learn that he used to have a best friend. This was 20 years ago but Titta still thinks he is his best friend. He has some interesting philosophies of his own. To him, bad luck is an invention of losers and poor people and life without imagination is a miserable one. When the possibility of a romantic liaison with Sofia finally arises, he tells her that he is perhaps doing the most dangerous thing he has ever done in his life, but he does it anyway. The nature of his occupation and why he is holed up inside the hotel is revealed to us much later when he makes Sofia the second confessor. Titta’s life inside the hotel is almost of a purgatory nature, with the uncertainty about his immediate future nagging him constantly.
Sorrentino’s film is as quiet and elegant as Titta himself but occasionally the director treats us to some stylish sequences. Every time Titta takes his suitcase and drives his car (a BMW) to where he is supposed to go, Sorrentino makes these sequences look as if they were a suitcase or a BMV commercial. And I don’t mean this in a bad way. It’s what makes the film, with a character like this at its center, look appealing. Sorrentino’s distinctive style and vision are inimitable. Part character study and part thriller, the film works as an introspective and stylish meditation on loneliness and detachment. Most serious cinephiles have at least one Sorrentino film as their favorite and the one name I hear the most is The Great Beauty, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013. But for me, it’s The Consequences of Love. Perhaps it’s because the introvert side of me found Titta to be a very identifiable character.