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Vincere (2009)
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Giovanna Mezzogiorno & Filippo Timi


Keris Nine -

This review is from: Vincere (DVD)
The relationship between the Italian people and its political leaders is a complicated one that has been tackled recently by a number of Italian filmmakers, resulting in films as diverse as Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo on Giulio Andreotti and Nanni Moretti's satire on Silvio Berlusconi in The Caiman. Perhaps the greatest and most political of modern-day Italian directors, Marco Bellocchio takes on arguably an even more complex subject in Vincere, one whose relationship with the Italian people is even more difficult to define - that of Benito Mussolini.

Typically however, from the director who found poetic resonance in the 1978 kidnapping and murder of elder statesman Aldo Moro by members of the Red Brigade in Good Morning, Night (Buongiorno, notte), Vincere is far from a straightforward biopic. Bellocchio approaches his subject from a most unconventional angle, using the buried episode of Mussolini's secret first marriage to Ida Dalser, a marriage that would result in the birth of a child - unacknowledged by Mussolini - and the incarceration of Dalser in an insane asylum as Mussolini's rise to power called for a certain rewriting of his personal history. In their marriage, Bellocchio manages to examine the complicated nature of relationships between Italian men and women, and through it, say much about the nature of power in a wider historical and political context.

That still makes Vincere sound fairly conventional when in reality the film is much more complex in its structure and visual language. The relationship between Dalser and the dark, silent, forceful young Mussolini can seem as unfathomable as his move from militant socialism to fascism, and Bellocchio doesn't make it easy for the viewer to make sense of the contradictions, schizophrenically dividing the film in stylistic terms, the tall, dark and handsome Filippo Timi disappearing in the first half to be replaced by documentary footage of the real Mussolini, short, fat, ugly and bald in the second half. It makes no sense unless you consider what you are viewing is through the eyes of a young woman in the heightened emotional state of love in the earlier part, and betrayal in second.

It's Giovanna Mezzogiorno's performance that holds this together, preventing the film slipping over into empty stylistic excess (like Sorrentino's Il Divo) by underpinning it with strong meaningful human sentiments in her remarkably sensitive reading of Dalser. Whatever one makes of this puzzle of a film, which is extremely complicated in its range of political and cultural references (such as the way the Futurism art movement is integrated into the fabric of the film itself), and in what it says about the nature of the Italian people, Dalser's experience and Mezzagiorno's performance ensures that at the very least, Vincere presents a fascinating episode in recent political history through a touching portrait of a woman's blind love for a dangerous man.

Marx Lives "ocelle" (Lima, PERU)

In my humble view, this is a side and insignificant story---A woman who claimed to be Mussolini's wife and mother of his first son, claims which she was unable to proof. The question is, in what way is this story important? Why would people need to learn about this lady's case? It is impossible not to feel sorry for her ordeals and her son's tragic end but it tells little about Italy or even Mussolini. If the idea was to illustrate the degree of repression during the fascist regime, the movie failed to do so. Some degree of repression is the background to the story of this lady whose emotional stability is questionable at all times.
Mussolini was a second rate dictator who got his country into a war it was unprepared for. Italy's modest infrastructure was destroyed and the noble values of its young generations was abused and their dreams frustrated. This is the only story when it comes to fascism in Italy.
I bought it, do not make the same mistake.

Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States)

Marco Bellocchio directed and wrote (with Daniela Ceselli) this very dark version of the private life of Benito Mussolini, a portion of his life that centered on his mistress and the mother of his son, one Ida Dalser. Though the film never really reveals whether Ida Dasler and Mussolini were married (Mussolini already had a wife and child when he me the devastatingly beautiful and erotic Ida) but that simply doesn't seem to matter while watching this artistic triumph of a film. What the director does manage to portray is the life and times of Italy before, during, and after WW I, a time during which Mussolini began his influence as a socialist and ultimately founded Italian Fascism, becoming the Fascist dictator of Italy. The many permutations of the concepts of monarchism and socialism and eventually Fascism are delineated by the film, if at times as shadowy in their explanation as is the director's love of dark in lighting the screen during almost all of the action. Bellocchio uses black and white film clips throughout his film giving it a somewhat documentary flair, but the performances by the actors make this film very much a visceral drama and not a dry rehash of history.

Filippo Timi gives a gripping performance as both Mussolini the ardent and handsome lover and politician whose life is always controlled by the term 'Vincere' ('Win'). Aptly, when the bulky monster Mussolini rises out of the socialism into fascism and the war the part of Mussolini is 'played' by the film clips of the real person. But as the film draws toward the end of his life, Timi once again enters the film in the role of his son Benito Albino Mussolini, a lad stricken with insanity and confined to a sanitarium. As Mussolini's mistress (aka 'wife' by her accounts) Ida Dalser, Giovanna Mezzogiorno offers one of the strongest cinematic portrayals of an important woman of history. She is simply riveting - erotic when the romance begins, faithful even when she discovers Mussolini has a wife, and uncontrollably fierce as she is confined by the government (with Mussolini's approval) to an insane asylum. This is one of those performances that will live in memory long after this film is seen and hopefully will garner awards when the Oscar season comes round.

In all this is a beautifully wrought, intelligent, beautifully acted, occasionally confusing melodrama that sheds light on the man Mussolini, his rise to power, and the women who came under his influence.

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