Published Sep 15, 2009According to the laws of physics, opposites attract. But this isn't the case for the young and still socialist Mussolini and the obsessive Ida Dalser in Marco Bellocchio's latest film, Vincere.
The biopic looks at the relationship between Benito Mussolini and his wife Ida before he became the fascist leader we know him for today. They're both clearly hot for each other but there doesn't seem to be much else going on in their relationship. In fact, both characters look disturbed from the start, but in very different ways.
Mussolini is unresponsive unless revolutions and explosions are involved, while Ida clings to him obsessively, giving up everything to help him with his career. As Mussolini's influence as a newspaper editor grows, Ida's hold on him weakens until he abandons her and their son Benito for a new wife and political career.
Things get even worse for Ida when she's sent to a mental institution, where her claims to being the wife of Il Duce are treated the same as declarations of having slept with Napoleon. The years pass and Ida sinks deeper into depression, as her attempts to get her marriage recognized fall flat.
What's great about Vincere is the archival footage peppered throughout the film, weaved seamlessly into the storyline. Other highlights come from Filippo Timi's performance as Mussolini. He manages to get just the right mix of aloof creepiness, passion and charisma, along with all of Il Duce's bizarre mannerisms.
The disappointments mostly occupy the second half of the film, where all you really see is Ida getting increasingly worse until she's descended into full-fledged delusions. And since Mussolini doesn't actually figure at all in the last half, those 128 minutes start to drag.
As a Mussolini biopic, Vincere is compelling and fresh, thanks to some top-notch acting and a well paced plot. But once Il Duce is out of the picture, well, it's not really a Mussolini biopic anymore is it? (E1)