Hungry Hearts: Saverio Costanzo


by Joanna Orland

Italian director Saverio Costanzo read the novel The Indigo Child by Marco Franzoso.  A year and a half later he started adapting the novel into what would eventually become the feature film Hungry Hearts starring Adam Driver (Girls, Tracks) and Costanzo’s actress girlfriend Alba Rohrwacher.  He wrote this script from his memories of the book, using that story to write his own as a way to forgive himself for the mistakes he feels he made as a father.

A genre-bending film with excellent lead performances, Hungry Hearts follows a young couple living in New York who meet in a comedic opening scene set in a bathroom to not only start the film on a lighthearted note, but to also act as a metaphor for what is to come for the main characters.  Mina (Rohrwacher) and Jude (Adam Driver) quickly marry and produce a baby.  What begins as a relationship drama steadily develops into a thriller with Mina rejecting the notions of modern medicine, insisting her instincts will tell her what is best for her baby.  Mina’s love for her child becomes an obsession.  Jude is forced to take his son to the doctor in secret where he is told that the child is malnourished and not growing.

Costanzo never judges his characters in his film, merely observes them.  This is part of the process he uses to forgive himself for his own misgivings where his child is concerned.  While the Venice Film Festival audience seemed to demonize Mina’s character as the central villain, Costanzo states that we are not meant to judge.  The baby of the film remains nameless and is only ever referred to as “my son” or “my baby” in order to aid the viewer in avoiding empathizing with the victim, to only focus on Jude and Mina.

New York itself is more than a backdrop to this film as it emanates a sense of isolation and loneliness.  This is directly inspired by Costanzo’s time spent living in the city where he felt not only isolated and lonely, but deprived of good food that he had become accustomed to having grown up in Italy.  New York is a place you can live well with money but as a poor student in the city not able to live a lavish lifestyle, he struggled and suffered, feeling that he’s earned the right to shoot a film in New York.

The subject matter of food and the analogy of poisoning / purifying ourselves is a very modern story.  A story that could not have been made in an earlier era as Costanzo points out the absurdity of not feeding your child meat in the 1950’s post-war time.  It’s an impossible concept for the past and therefore a contemporary story.  With food becoming a fad in modern society, the director is absolutely correct in stating that this is a story that the modern human can relate to.  This is the culture that we now live in – think of all of the gluten free, raw vegan, non gmo diets and stores that cater exactly to this way of thinking and living.  Costanzo concludes that if we look inside ourselves, we are likely to find a bit of Mina within us all.


Read our review of Hungry Hearts.

Our interview with Adam Driver & Alba Rohrwacher.

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