Directed by: Marco Bellocchio
Written by: Marco Bellocchio
Starring: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Filippo Timi
Run Time: 128 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
There is understandably a risk in bringing stories of unappealing, hated characters to the big screen. You can just imagine the questions that are raised when a studio is considering undertaking such a task-Will people think we are glamorizing the horrific? How can the audience sympathize? It was a risk that was taken and rewarded with The Last King of Scotland, the biopic of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and starring Forest Whitaker, who went on to win an Oscar for Best Actor. So too does it work for the soon-to-be-released film Vincere.
Making its way through the festival circuit, including the recent New York Film Festival, Vincere by Italian auteur director Marco Bellocchio is a truly amazing and captivating film that is rightfully building up a buzz and awards along the way to its winter release. This is one of those films that make you so wonderfully aware of the “art” of filmmaking, when key elements such as acting, photography, music and set magically come together. The story revolves around the sometimes hated, horrific character of Benito Mussolini, and his secret life in the form of his alleged first wife, Ida Dalser, and the son they had together, Benito Albino. Both were eventually denied and hidden by the dictator, which ignites Dalser into an obsessive state, and causes her unjust separation from her son and the ultimate institutionalization of them both.
From their early encounters, Ida sincerely adores Mussolini and embraced his ardent socialist ideas. All too soon, he disappears from her and into the throes of WWI army life. When she finds him in a hospital, he is being tended by his new wife. Ida confronts them both, but is shunned and locked away for more than ten years. Through it all, she is determined to never be seen as anything less than Mussolini’s “real” wife, and her son Benito as his first-born son.
Because the movie begins at the point when Mussolini is an impassioned journalist and activist, you initially expect it to be a biopic about Il Duce. Instead, half way into the film the focus shifts from Mussolini just as he is coming into prominence to Dalser’s story. In between, Bellochio deftly interjects archival footage of Mussolini and the political backdrop of a changing country. To say the two lead actors (Fillippo Timi as Mussolini, Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Ida) are talented and appropriate for these roles is an understatement. They are nothing less than utterly captivating. and Timi may be doubly so as he surprisingly takes on two roles-both incredibly portrayed. If he manages to avoid comparisons to his Spanish counterpart, Javier Bardem, I’d be surprised.
As good as they are, they come second to the real leading characters of this film-the visually ravishing look thanks to cinematographer Daniele Cipri, and the big, rapturous original music by Carlo Crivelli.
With the operatic/classical score, authentic period feel and big acting, Vincere to some may feel as if bordering on melodrama, and maybe it does. But for some reason, in the hands of Bellochio it stops just short and feels so right in its intensity. It’s like the best of a Vischonti, Bertolucci and Fellini movie all in one.
Vincere is a cinephile’s fix, and not just to be seen anywhere. In the tradition of films such as The Last Emperor or Senso, this is one to be experienced on the biggest screen you can find.
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