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Under Review: ‘Vincere’

— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —

Ideals are infectious. Thus the only way to truly control man is to manipulate his philosophy. It’s a sad truth but we, as humans, are prone to subjecting ourselves to whatever seems easiest or most convenient at the time. However, occasionally, there are clashing ideologies and this sparks mayhem.

Revolutions are known for two things – bloodshed and change. But it’s usually the violence that escalates from revolts that ushers in the change. Public officials and armies crumble under pressure and a new regime is born – thus is the history of our current society.

Benito Mussolini is known for both causing bloodshed and spawning a new ideology known as “Italian Fascism.” This political belief meshed elements of nationalism, corporatism, national syndicalism, expansionism, social progress and anti-communism and used state propaganda to spread across Italy.

Marco Bellocchio, whose pervious films include “My Mother’s Smile” and “Good Morning, Night,” does a brilliant job at portraying the seemingly unknown hardships of Mussolini’s first wife, Ida Dalser, who was thrown into an asylum and subjected to maltreatment after Mussolini systematically destroys all evidence of their marriage.

Bellocchio’s “Vincere” mainly succeeds due to an unorthodox direction that manages to build tensions throughout its entirety. Bellocchio combines archival footage with acted footage starring Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Ida Dalser and Filippo Timi as both Mussolini and the adult version of his son, Benito Albino. This adds a layer of authenticity to the almost unbelievable tale.

Another great aspect of “Vincere” is its soundtrack. Thundering orchestral music fills the screen as war speeches clutter the screen in rapid succession.

We are first introduced to Mussolini as he attempts to disprove God through a challenge. He proposes that if God does not kill him in five minutes, God cannot be real. Of course, Mussolini does not die and instead gets shunned for his beliefs. This one scene shows how Mussolini placed his ideals above all others – a trait that would help him build a powerful dictatorship over the span of his political life.

Filippo Timi is absolutely unforgettable in his role. He portrays the dominance of his characters with much gusto and never misses a beat throughout his entire screen time.

The second act takes on a more serious direction. Whereas the first act, which is almost absurd, shows the revolution’s modest beginnings, the second act takes focus on Mussolini’s wife, who is diagnosed with insanity for claiming her marriage to the dictator. As the destruction becomes more evident, the plot becomes more streamlined and collected but this does not ruin the film’s effect in the slightest.

Ida Dalser is an interesting character and Mezzogiorno does an excellent job portraying the troubled lover. Dalser represents the oppression under Mussolini’s control. Both sexually and emotionally, she is manipulated. Whereas Mussolini needs to climb to the top of everything, Dalser needs to remain right next to him. But she is the reason for Mussolini’s success because it is because she sold all her possessions that Mussolini managed to fund a newspaper that spouted propaganda.

As the film reaches its climax, it’s increasingly evident Dalser will not abandon her husband though he doesn’t even acknowledge her. It’s heart-wrenching to see the destructive influence that Mussolini has on the once successful young woman.

“Vincere” is a fine piece of “cinema Italiano” and for a biographical picture it does a masterful job at maintaining the audience’s attention through its lengthy running time.

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Follow Mariusz Zubrowski on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ItsJustMariusz.

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