Spoilers ahead for Call Me By Your Name.
The final shot of Call Me By Your Name, the incandescent masterpiece directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a seven minute-long frame of Elio's (Timothée Chalamet) face. He's looking into a fire. He's mournful. He's contemplative. He, like us, is reliving the summer he had with Oliver (Armie Hammer), and what it meant to him. (To all of us!) It's a mesmerising shot, save for one detail: a fly. While we're gazing on Elio's furrowed brow, the fly is traipsing around, seemingly immune to the power of Elio's face. In the cinema, I found myself thinking, Is that a real fly? Did Timothée Chalamet sit still for seven minutes while a fly just, like, hung out on his shoulder? Or, even weirder, did Guadagnino edit the lil' fella into that last shot just to mess with me?
The final fly is the fly that made the lasting impression, but there were more bugs in the movie. I mean, the movie is sumptuous. There is a hot sun. There are bodies of water. There is an Italian villa with slatted doors. There are very ripe peaches, which are sweet and sticky, good for summoning flies. The flies are everywhere. They alight on Elio's notebook while he sits outside. They buzz around the fountain where Oliver is swimming. They hang out inside the house! Again, this all makes sense for the summer in Italy. But, everything else in the movie is careful. There might be all of 30 lines in the whole movie, actually. The dialogue is that cautious. So the flies have to mean something. I tried to get to the bottom of it. These are my theories about all the flies in this otherwise very perfect film.
Luca Guadagnino used the last of his post-production budget to make sure there were flies everywhere.
The fly is one of the few objects in the final shot that actually moves. For me, it was distracting — didn't Chalamet want to swat it away? — but it might have served to keep us watching the shot. If there's some movement, then it's harder to look away. Were it a completely still picture, maybe I would have looked back down at my popcorn, searching for a few more kernels.
So, Guadagnino thinks, maybe I'll edit a small computer-generated fly into the film, just so that frame isn't so placid. Then, once he'd had a taste of the power of CGI, he used it in virtually every scene. A fly here! A fly on the piano! A fly on every peach!
Guadagnino orchestrated a small company of trained flies.
Many films work with trained animals — animal actors, you might say. Flies aren't horses, but certainly they can be corralled. Maybe before each take, Guadagnino unleashed a new bucket of fresh flies. It wouldn't be that hard to gather flies in one place, either. We've all seen a huddle of flies around a pile of rotting flesh, right? Production could have easily set a few important traps for the flies. A rotting peach, perhaps?
The purpose of this chorus of flies would be to, I don't know, represent Elio's itchy restlessness.
Timothée Chalamet was perpetually covered in peach juice.
He's only 22. Maybe he's messy? The flies flocked to the sticky nectar, and Guadagnino kept it in for the sake of verisimilitude.
There are just a lot of flies in Lombardia, Italy.
Someone on set really smelled like poop.
And the flies wandered about, desperately wondering where they might find a nice pile of faeces. (It was on Michael Stuhlberg's shoe is my prediction.)
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