Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie with Abe: Vincere

Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Released March 19, 2010

The word “vincere” means “win” in Italian. That’s certainly a fitting verb to describe the goals and outlook of one Benito Mussolini. This movie starts out as a stunning portrait of Mussolini the man as he becomes Mussolini the legend. A fantastic scene at the beginning of the film shows Mussolini declaring in front of a party meeting that he will prove that God does not exist by challenging God to strike him dead, and if he remain standing, he has successfully made his point. Ida Dalser, Mussolini’s first wife, sneaks in to look on admiringly, and it’s clear that this man means the world to her. It’s a strong introduction to a story about passion for power and for love.

After that positive start, however, things become increasingly less clear. This is supposed to be the story of Ida Dalser, the woman who was ignored and denied as the legitimate first wife of Mussolini. Yet the film seems infinitely more focused on his rise to power and his continued legacy, with a frenzied Dalser, declared insane to discredit her allegations, frantically watching and trying desperately to have her story heard. It’s almost as if the creative team behind this film treated her in the same manner as Mussolini did, considering her mildly interesting for a while but ultimately unworthy of a place in the overarching chronicle of Mussolini’s history.

“Vincere” weaves together scenes featuring actor Filippo Timi as Mussolini and archive footage of the real Mussolini in order to portray the man, close and tangible as he was at first to Ida and then distant and untouchable as he later ended up when he refused to acknowledge her anymore. It’s a device that works somewhat well to explain the pain and disconnect Ida felt, but it takes the viewer out of the experience more, feeling just as out of touch with reality as Ida. Another disappointment isn’t the fault of the filmmakers, but is rather due to the accuracy and depth of historical records. There isn’t much detailed information about what actually became of Ida, and therefore the later portions of the film are considerably hazier, which makes it seem like the movie falls with its main character, losing its sense of reality along with its protagonist.

The performances in “Vincere” are, fortunately, extremely strong and the best reason to see the film. Timi is fearsome and impressive as Mussolini, and his work in the opening scene alone makes the film. Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who previously played a crazed, disrespected wife in the 2001 film “L’ultimo bacio” (the original version of “The Last Kiss” starring Zach Braff), is extraordinarily capable of channeling emotion, devotion, rage, and passion into the character of Ida Dalser. The fine work by the actors is far above the strength of the material here, however, which is hardly a testament to their portrayals and to the legacy of the real-life people whose lives are being depicted here.


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