Acclaimed Italian director Marco Bellocchio (Fists in the Pocket; Devil in the Flesh) delivers his boldest work yet, an audacious, visually stunning film that the Village Voice calls a stylistic knockout about fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and the woman he loved, scorned, denounced and then wrote out of history. Rising actor Filippo Timi is magnetic in a dual role as both the steamrolling dictator and the son he refuses to acknowledge. And Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Love In The Time Of Cholera) delivers a career-making, award-winning performance as Ida Dalser, the lover who wouldn t go away. Bellocchio is a master of eroticism and their scenes of abandon are so powerful and reckless (The Hollywood Reporter called them steamy ), it s easy to understand why Dalser could never give him up. His rise to power and her descent into an insane asylum are tragic counterpoints in a doomed romance. Dalser may have been written off at the time, but Bellocchio and Mezzogiorno allow her a final, unexpected triumph in this cinematic masterwork.
(Italian for "win") doggedly portrays facets of a life hell-bent on the acquisition of power and fame. Italian director Marco Bellocchio (Devil in the Flesh
), in his feature that has the high drama of opera and a soundtrack to match, tells the story of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's transformation into Il Duce (Filippo Timi) in light of the women he loved and spurned. While Mussolini's official wife is mentioned, the focus here is on his secret first wife, Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who stars as a woman obsessed with claiming this megalomaniac as her husband despite her inability to provide officials with proof. Enter their child as evidence, Benito Albino (Fabrizio Costella), who as an adult is played by Timi to reinforce the physical resemblance to his father. One of the film's strengths is in how it follows Mussolini through his youngest years as a revolutionary, explaining his politics and his ability to rally citizens toward war. Though the story is dramatized, it is fascinating to understand how such a furious character charmed Italians. In early scenes, Ida's unflinching worship is also understandable, as Vincere
implies that Mussolini's sexual appetites were as passionate as his political agenda. However, as Dalser and her son age, go into hiding, and face impending tragedies through the remainder of this very long feature, one loses any grasp on why Dalser continues to be obsessed with a man who obviously has no interest in her. While Mezzogiorno performs this mentally fragile woman with bravado, the character is extremely flawed and the plot does nothing to offer external perspectives to help viewers muster up sympathy. By the end, as the entire Mussolini enterprise crumbles, one is left frustrated by the stubbornness and blind devotion not only of Mussolini's fans, but also of the film's protagonist, Dalser, who remains statically on the road to downfall alongside her alleged husband. --Trinie Dalton