Andre Aciman, the author of Call Me By Your Name, has revealed that a defining conversation at the conclusion of the novel between protagonist Elio and his father was misinterpreted in the 2017 Academy Award-winning film adaptation.
In both the novel and the film, Elio, who has fallen in love with a man called Oliver, tells his father about the relationship, at which point the father replies that he, too, came close to this kind of love for someone.
Following the release of the film, starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, it was widely assumed that the father had chosen this moment to tell Elio about his own feelings for another man.
However, in conversation with Siddharth Shanghvi at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Aciman explained that this reading of the text "never crossed his mind".
“What I meant [the father] to say is, ‘I came close to having this kind of love and I never found it – not even with your mother.’ [The text] doesn’t say, ‘not even with your mother’, but that’s what I intended.”
This has a significant impact on the next part of the conversation. When Elio says, “Does mum know?”, viewers of the film have long believed that he was referring to his father’s feelings for another man.
But Aciman confirmed that Elio was, in fact, asking whether or not his mother knew about his own relationship with Oliver.
Aciman added that he was pleased that his novel had been interpreted in this way. “In hindsight, if I was teaching this novel, I would say the interpretation of people who watched the film is correct,” he said.
“So you learn from the public.”
Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino, won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2018.