VINCERE (Marco Bellocchio, 2009) ***
Bellocchio's latest is yet another look at a controversial Italian political figure, Benito Mussolini; however, it deals with a phase of his life which was kept 'in the shadows' for a great many years – the dictator's first marriage, which even yielded him a son! As was the case with GOOD MORNING, NIGHT (2003) – in which the film-maker had treated the abduction and execution of ex-Prime Minister Aldo Moro – the politician emerges not to be the central figure after all (remaining, similarly, little more than a cipher); here, in fact, the protagonist is Mussolini's secreted – or, more precisely, rejected – wife, who even winds up in a mental institution (a fate which also befalls their offspring, where both would die eventually)! The meticulous period reconstruction (and emphatic score) was to be expected, yet the human drama – and, by extension, the fine leading performances of Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Fabrizio Timi – is ultimately what renders the movie compelling; interestingly, while Mussolini as an older man is shown only via authentic newsreel footage, Timi plays both father and son as a young adult! Needless to say, the director distances himself from the Fascist fervor which had gripped his nation in those pivotal war years – choosing to depict Mussolini as godless (the film begins with him defying the Almighty to strike him down) and inhuman (both in the treatment of his first family and in his animalistic sexual prowess: the latter scenes, of which there a few, would otherwise have no discernible point) and even goes so far as to ridicule him by having son repeatedly caricature father's famously arrogant mannerisms while speechifying (with this in mind, the title – which translates to "Winning" – is clearly ironic, since what it presents is anything but the correct fighting spirit)!
- Feb 19, 2010
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