The story starts at the point in Benito Mussolini's life when, at the age of nineteen, he gave up being a schoolmaster, left his home town of Forli and, as a guest worker on a building-site... See full summary »
The story starts at the point in Benito Mussolini's life when, at the age of nineteen, he gave up being a schoolmaster, left his home town of Forli and, as a guest worker on a building-site in Lausanne, Switzerland, underwent his own personal experience of the darker sides of the capitalist system. The speed with which the rhetorically gifted demagogue manages to assemble whole crowds of friends and followers around him - including above all his "protectress", the enigmatic Russian woman Angelika - is reflected in the speed at which he succeeds in attracting enemies from church and state. His love for the beautiful Eleonora, the daughter of a middle-class family, studying medicine at the University of Geneva - a city where Mussolini himself has been carrying stone around as an unskilled worker - even convinces him to take up studying. When a fatal accident occurs on the building-site - a worker plunges to his death from a badly-secured section of scaffolding - the young student ... Written by
At the most obvious level, the average person might ask of this movie, "Why, oh why, would someone make a 5-hour movie about Benito Mussolini?" It does not even cover his entire life! In fact, it only covers about 12 years of his life, and all of it prior to the period for which he is historically significant to Americans. The movie covers Mussolini from age 19 to about age 31, ending about 1914, just before Italy's entry into WW I. The events of Mussolini's life depicted in the movie could be summarized as serial seduction of women, rabble-rousing and trouble-making, nothing in itself historically significant. Political wonks, history buffs and devout Socialists would find the movie interesting, but it is much too long and irrelevant for just about anyone else.
However, within the specialized audience for which this movie would hold appeal, it excels as a professionally-produced made-for-TV movie. For the American historian, it introduces some of the people who were significant in the era, and shows how they related to Mussolini. The movie also shows many bright, gifted, thoughtful people--even within his own party--who were routed by Mussolini's brute appeal to the public's emotions.
Antonio Banderas is believable to Americans in the role of seducer because of his sensuality, but the real Mussolini was plain-looking enough that if he was as promiscuous as portrayed in this movie, it could only be as a result of his society's (and his own) self-motivation for base desires. The real Mussolini looked like a thug and acted like a thug. He was a brutal man. How could such a man attract rational people to himself? The movie shows that he did it by his unwavering arrogance; people follow confident, assertive people, for better or worse.
The movie includes partial female nudity and Antonio Banderas' backside.
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