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Extremely good. Historical dramas don't get any better.
I just love allegories. I love the way so much imagination is poured into the re-telling of a story via new material. We all know our history, so we know about Benito Mussolini, Il Duce, and his reign of Fascism over Italy. But we don't know about the adulterous relationship he had with a certain Ida Dalser, who gave birth to his child and who Mussolini, in his unforgivable cold-bloodedness, calmly strived to strip apart. That's what Marco Bellocchio's new film, "Vincere", is all about: it's a historical drama about the woman Mussolini tried so hard to ruin after economically and sexually using her...and it's also a sublime allegory of how he used all of Italy.
Critics worldwide have seen the genius behind portraying Mussolini's reign of terror as a headstrong but powerless woman. Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) instantly falls under the spell of a young, handsome Mussolini (Filippo Timi). Italy is only beginning to experience the first waves of Socialism, and among those first to rebel against the government is this young man who has a certain power with words; in a scene where he runs away from the police for being involved in a riot, he shields himself behind the curious Ida who stepped out for a look, and passionately kisses her. I mean, Benito is a good kisser, or so he seems to be, because Ida melts in utter passion in his arms while he kisses her and he...well, he's a really good actor too, for he can focus his strength on this steamy kiss at the same time that his full concentration and awareness are scrutinizing the area to see if the police are gone. Sure enough, once they're gone he pushes Ida away and runs without so much as a half-hearted smile...but the kiss was enough for Ida to fall mercilessly in love with him.
In a matter of days, she's stalking him, getting into his fights and showing him glimpses of her crotch which get our all-too human Benito hot for her. The first twenty-something minutes of the film our two main characters spend passionately and intensely going at it. Well, Ida does the passionate part and Mussolini, as I've said before, is a really good actor; while Ida spends her every second in a sexual Nirvana, he is all steam but his stare is distant, serious, no doubt thinking about anything else but the woman coming in his arms. Ida's obsession with the dude takes her as far as selling almost all of her things and giving him all the money so he can establish his own Socialist newspaper. Notice the incredibly sarcastic scene where Ida finally asks Benito to tell her 'I love you.' Mussolini, who at this point of the film hasn't gotten over his hate for Germans, plainly answers 'Ich liebe dich.' But this is an allegory, so here's where the plot thickens. Mussolini just happens to be married, Ida finds out, but he can't move himself to even let her go properly because he's becoming really powerful so he doesn't need her anymore. Ida gives birth to his child, but he couldn't care less. Ida's obsession is so deep, though, that she really starts pestering Benito every living moment she has...and by the time Benito is a 9-year old boy, Ida spills the cup and our villainous dictator sends her to an insane asylum and gives the custody of her son to one of his right-hand men. From here on, it's chaos...both in Italy and on our tragic heroine's life. Just as a side note, the film claims to be based on true events; obviously, the rise of Fascism in Italy IS a true event, but I can't vouch for the verisimilitude of Mussolini's secret lover. I'm ready to believe it, though, because he was such a horrid man that he must've done to thousands of women the very same thing he did to Ida. And not only women: I mean, didn't he screw up millions of people's lives by using them? The film brings the suffering of an entire war-torn country into a very intelligent perspective by allegorizing it into the character of Ida Dalser, and that's more than can be said by any recent historical drama.
Sounds good, doesn't it? The acting is pitch-perfect, especially Mezzogiorno who redeems herself for her atrocious main performance in Mike Newell's "Love in the Time of Cholera" and manages to give us a heart-breaking, poignant, sublime and VERY powerful performance (I wonder why she didn't get an Oscar nod? Academy voters must've definitely been high). We see a woman who has no chance of survival, who'll never see her son again, whose life has been ruined by Italy's most powerful man, but her strength and courage stand true to the very last. The screenplay is VERY good, actually; Carlo Crivelli's score is one of the best scores I've heard in a long time (which sounds like a perfect cross between Philip Glass and Dario Marianelli) and Marco Dentici's cinematography couldn't possibly be better. Also, the film never lags, and it touches on so many levels of human suffering and cruelty, that you can't help but me moved to deeper thought. What more can you ask of a film? See it. Italy has outdone itself this year with such an excellent film. No one in their right minds could possibly be disappointed. Rating: 4 stars out of 4!!
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