"Vincere" DVD Movie Review

8/05/2010 Posted by Admin


DVD Movie Review

Directed by Marco Bellocchio, Written by Bellocchio and Daniela Ceselli, 126 Minutes, Not Rated.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Vincere" is an artful, touching, intense and occasionally frustrating telling of the story of Ida Dalser, an early mistress of pre-WWII Benito Mussolini.

The story is told in quick sequences separated sometimes by days and sometimes by years--it begins at a council meeting in which Mussolini, then a newspaper writer, is attacked by a crowd because of his socialist and atheist beliefs.

There, Ida sees him for the first time. Sharing his beliefs on society and politics, she feels an immediate connection to the man. Unaware he's already married with a son, she begins an affair with him, and while it's clear she is wholly infatuated and eventually obsessed with him, he is emotionally distant, using her for little more than personal gratification and focusing almost entirely on his political prospects. He continues his romantic charade, however, when he learns he can use her money to help fund his own newspaper. As his reputation grows and his political beliefs move closer and closer to Fascism, Ida fears their love is collapsing, and eventually, after having a son, she becomes completely estranged from Mussolini, who denies any relationship with her and has her committed when she continues claiming to be his wife.

The rest of the film details Ida's life in an Italian insane asylum during the rise of the Fascists.

The first half of the film is told very strangely--we get only brief glimpses into the mind of either of the main characters, though it's obvious Mussolini's political ambitions are always his priority. It's difficult, then, to know whether Ida truly is delusional in her love for him. We never get a clear idea of how their relationship worked or if any of the promises she claimed to have gotten from him were true. The act is rushed and detached, and despite the style being rather painterly and warm, the whole thing is pretty cold.

It's in the second half of the film where things really pick up. This is primarily due to Giovanna Mezzogiorno's outstanding performance as Dalser, which has more emotional intensity than many performances of the last few years.

Both acts of the film also have a very unique aspect to them in director Marco Bellocchio's use of silent films and archive footage of the era. He conveys emotion quite effectively through the combination of this old black & white imagery with that of the film, and he not only provides a way to understand the mindset of the characters, but of seeing how much of a stranglehold film had on society in this time period.

Filippo Timi, who portrays Mussolini in the first act, is entirely absent in the second, and he's replaced by paintings, photos and archive footage of the real Mussolini, who Bellochio portrays as being everpresent and all-powerful despite not being in a single scene. This technique is almost more effective in portraying Mussolini than Timi himself, though his performance (and his second performance as Ida's grown son) is quite spellbinding.

Overall, the film seems to use Ida Dalser as a means to express something missing in Italy of this era, which is the desire to be an individual, to not conform to the ideals of Fascists. Throughout the whole second act, Ida is told that she can be released from the asylum if she just admits she is not acquainted with Mussolini and adheres to Fascist rule, and unlike most other characters in the film, she simply refuses every step of the way.

It may be stubborness, it may be delusion--whatever the case, Bellocchio portrays Ida as a martyr against Fascism and conformism in any sense--the title "Vincere" is literally translated to "win." The film ends with the rise of Fascism in Italy and Mussolini's claim that Italy will triumph over its enemies, but the "win" is not for the Fascists, it is for Ida and her son, and those like them who wouldn't bow to them at any cost, those who were victorious in morality and spirit.

Grade: B

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