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Vincere - Review

Vincere

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE little known story of Ida Dasler, the first wife of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, forms the basis of this excellent historical drama from acclaimed Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio.

Vincere (literally translated as ‘Win’) unfolds in the period between 1907 and 1914 as beauty shop worker Ida (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) falls for passionate union activist Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi) and helps to finance his rise to power.

The couple marry but as Mussolini switches from socialism to Fascism, he all but disassociates himself from Ida and re-marries with impunity as power takes hold.

Ida, meanwhile, is forced to spend the rest of her days battling for recognition both for herself, as his wife, and their son, whom Benito also refuses to recognise.

Set against the backdrop of one of the most tumultuous periods in recent Italian history, Bellocchio’s film is a stirring drama that unfolds both on an epic and intimate level.

When dealing with Mussolini (brilliantly played with real fire and ruthless conviction by Timi), Bellocchio allows things to unfold in a grand, operatic fashion complete with suitably operatic score.

Yet when dealing with Ida’s subseqent struggles he lends the film an intimacy that is utterly heartbreaking.

Mezzogiorno is nothing short of amazing in the lead role, steadfastly refusing to go quietly into the night, and demanding that Italy pay attention to her plight – if not for her own sake, then for the sake of her son.

It was a mission destined to end in tragedy, however, as she was sent away to asylums while her son slowly went mad.

Mezzogiorno conveys this torment and hurt brilliantly in the type of performance that would, in Hollywood, have been a shoe-in for awards recognition.

While Timi recalls the brilliance of Christoph Waltz in his striking portrayals of both the bullish Mussolini and his tragic son.

Bellocchio, meanwhile, continues to challenge the institutions that have come to mark his earlier work, albeit on a much grander scale.

Perhaps most praise-worthy, however, is the fact that his film works on a global scale and isn’t confined to those with an acute knowledge of Italian history.

Ida’s story has real emotional resonance and can’t fail to touch the hearts of anyone who sees it, while Bellocchio’s assured touch behind the camera lends the film an epic sweep that’s befitting the past classics of Italian cinema.

In Italian, with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 5mins
UK Release Date: May 14, 2010