There are a number of aspects to Luca Guadagnino’s striking new film Call Me By Your Name to fall in love with. There’s the gorgeous shots of the Northern Italian countryside, career-best perfromances from the likes of Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, and a scene near the end from Michael Stuhlbarg that might be the best five minutes put on screen in 2017. And, of course, there is the music of Sufjan Stevens, who offers up three songs for the film — two new ones and one reimagining — which many have noted find a particular harmony with the subject matter and tone of the film.
In a new interview with Billboard, Guadagnino revealed exactly how Stevens was approached with the project and how his music functions within the movie, explaining that he wanted to have “a sort of narrator, without having a normal narrator.” When the interviewer notes that Stevens’ music feels like hearing the internal monologue of Chalamet’s character Elio, Guadagnino responds:
“And also the movie’s internal monologue, in a way. I think what Sufjan comes with is three things. First, the lyrics he writes are incredibly evocative. Very, very sharp. And they are, in a way, capable of evoking images that are not necessarily the same for everybody. So this, in a way, makes it universal. The music is pure and poetic and simple. And those were qualities I was seeking for the film. And the voice is like crystal. His voice is so angelic, in a way. So the combination of these three things was fantastic.”
Guadagnino also notes that Stevens was originally only asked to do a single song and sent them the three while still early into the film’s production, going only by the script, the book, and a conversation with the director. He also recalls the first time he listened to the music with Hammer and Chalamet, saying, “When you do a movie, you can do a movie as a job, or you can do a movie as a piece of life. And we were doing a movie that was a piece of life, of our lives, intertwined. And then we heard this music, and the depths of our commitment to the movie, I think, grew significantly more. And we became enveloped into this magic.”
Call Me By Your Name is currently in theaters, and it is just as beautiful as Stevens’ lovely songs and Guadagnino’s poetic words about it.