Review by Jack Foley
PAOLO Sorrentino’s acclaimed biopic Il Divo takes a look at the controversial figure of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. But while it’s an undoubtedly stylish affair, it’s also a frustrating one too.
Andreotti is something of an enigma. As a politician, he has been elected to Parliament seven times since it was established in 1946. But he has also been investigated for his links to the Vatican, to right-wing Masonic lodges, and to the Mafia.
Sorrentino’s film has no time for allegations or theories, and immediately connects Andreotti to the Mafia crimes, opening his film with a montage recalling the assassination of several high-profile figures, including a journalist, that stood in his way. It’s a bravura opening that cleverly recalls the ending of most Godfather movies.
But rather than exploring any complicity, or doubt surrounding it, Sorrentino seldom looks back and continues to monitor Andreotti from his seventh election as Italian Prime Minister in 1992, until the trial in which he was accused of collusion with the Mafia.
He also wraps things up in a heightened state of realism, with several sequences appearing as completely surreal (such as a party that Andreotti attends in which everyone is jumping around).
So, while no one could accuse the film of resorting to tried and tested (and slightly restricting) biopic conventions, Il Divo in fact goes too far the other way and is so super-stylised that very little is actually uncovered about its central character.
Anyone without a firm grasp for the complexities and corruption that’s virtually synonymous with the Italian politics of the time will be lost, while Andreotti remains an impenetrable character… no matter how engaging a presence he is to be around.
On the plus side, Toni Servillo – who reunites with Sorrentino for the first time since The Consequences of Love – gives a masterful performance, both in expression and body language, while there’s capable support from a strong Italian cast.
But while viewers may undoubtedly be impressed with elements of Sorrentino’s handywork, they may have been expecting something a little more probing as well. Il Divo is worth seeing, but it’s not the masterpiece that a lot of critics are suggesting.
In Italian, with subtitles
Running time: 113mins
UK DVD Release: July 27, 2009