Friday, September 18, 2009

TIFF 2009: Vincere

Vincere (To Win) (Italy, 2009) directed by Marco Bellocchio, 128 minutes at the Scotiabank Theatre 2

When I was younger my mother sometimes would said, "You know, Mussolini did some good things too." But this was the era that she was raised in where Mussolini was treated as a sort of god. And by the way Ma, I am still waiting for proof of that assertion.

Mussolini, before he became Il Duce, had a wife named Ida Dasler and a son. After the film, an audience member asked if Ida was Jewish and the actor who played Mussolini (the powerfully charismatic Filippo Timi) said he could not confirm this but to my mind it might explain a few things.

Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) met the young Mussolini in 1907 when he was a "young socialist provocateur" who challenged the monarchy of King Victor Emmanuel, the papacy, the existence of God and advocated passionately for socialist revolution. She was clearly dazzled by him and there was strong sexual passion between them that she never really recovers from.

They did not become lovers until seven years later at the start of WWI. She helped him start his own newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia, and she sold all of her possessions to finance the venture.

A year later in 1915, she gave birth to a son, also named Benito Albino Mussolini, and they married. She soon discovered that he had married another woman from his village, Rachele Guidi, during the war, who would eventually bear him four children. Rachele was to represent the ideal of the submissive Fascist wife, who tended hearth and home and adored her husband. Mussolini, inexplicably for me, held an intense attraction for women of that era sort of like our friend Silvio Berlusconi in Italy today and with whom he has been compared, sometimes favorably.

Mussolini fought in World War I and returned with completely altered political ideas, renouncing socialism and now advocating Fascism. His political career soared and he went on to found the National Fascist Party in 1921. All traces of his marriage to Ida were virtually destroyed.

Ida was unceremoniously dumped, placed under house arrest and eventually was committed to an asylum in 1926. In the film, the manicomio is run by a pack of vicious nuns, some of whom think she should be grateful that she was impregnated by the great leader.

Her son Benito, who was at centre of her life, was given to her sister to raise and then in 1931, at the age of 15, the younger Benito was adopted by the former Fascist police chief of the town of Sopramante. In 1942, at the age of 27, he died in an asylum where he had been given coma-inducing injections repeatedly.

From the asylum that Ida was committed to, she continued to petition Mussolini, the Pope, and various other officials demanding that her marriage to Mussolini be recognized and her son acknowledged.

The former never happened. She never gave up her fight for recognition and effectually disappeared from history until Marco Bellocchio saw a documentary on her life and decided to make this film.

Filippo Timi convincingly plays the young Mussolini and then in the latter part of the film his son as a young adult. The former portrayal is as dynamic, powerful and convincing as is the latter: that of a confused, angry young man whose life has been shattered by Mussolini's refusal to acknowledge his mother as his legitimate wife.

The actress Mezzogiorno is relentless as the spurned first wife who will not submit to her fate. Her singlemindedness eventually does turn to madness as she begins to believe that she is being tested by Mussolini and must simply persevere in order to prove her worth to Il Duce.

TIFF of the Day: After I saw this film I saw Videocracy and there is a telling scene where the most powerful talent agent in Italy compares Berlusconi, positively, to Mussolini and then cheerfully displays to the filmmaker a small video on his mobile phone which is a celebration of Fascism, swastikas and Mussolini's hard jawed visage!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw the Film Yesterday at the Filmfestival in Haifa, Israel.
(subtitles in English).
This piece of History was not known to me and I am glad I was this very important Film.
It is simply ART.