InfoIt’s 1907 in Rome and Ida Dalser is captivated by a dynamic young socialist named Benito Mussolini. They fall in love and begin a torrid love affair. Mussolini initially opposes any involvement in the emerging war in Europe, but then he reverses his position. This leads to his expulsion from the Socialist Party. However, he develops a new political philosophy he calls Fascism. Ida sells her belongings to finance it. Ida also gives birth to a son. Mussolini goes off to fight in World War I and is wounded. Ida visits him in the hospital only to find out he has a new wife and a daughter. Ida insists he is married to her, but Mussolini denies it. Dalser never sees Mussolini again, only in newsreels. By the early 1920s, Mussolini is Italy’s leader. Meanwhile, Dalser intensifies her campaign to prove she is Mussolini’s legitimate wife and her son is also his son. Impoverished and desperate, she and her son are committed to separate asylums and both gradually descend into madness. But Dalcer hangs in there (barely) writing letters to newspapers and even the Pope seeking legitimacy for her and her son.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 92%
- Metacritic Score: 85
Chicago International Film Festival: Winner, Best Actor (Filippo Timi); Best Actress (Giovanna Mezzogiorno); Best Director (Marco Bellocchio); Best Cinematography (Daniele Cipri)
National Society of Film Critics Award: Best Actress (Giovanna Mezzogiorno)
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The film is beautifully well-mounted. The locations, the sets, the costumes, everything conspire to recreate the Rome of that time. It provides a counterpoint to the usual caricature of Mussolini. They say that behind every great man there stands a great woman. In Mussolini’s case, his treatment of her was a rehearsal for how he would treat Italy.
Momentous events require suitably powerful storytelling, which vet helmer Marco Bellocchio delivers in VINCERE. Both Mezzogiorno and Timi are perfectly cast. He’s got Il Duce’s grandstanding down pat and Timi’s Mussolini is frighteningly human. Mezzogiorno is moving, pathetic and intelligent. She’s a woman battered by her brush with unfettered power.
In VINCERE, a sustained, alternately exhausting and aesthetically howl of a film, the veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio brilliantly personalizes Mussolini’s rise to power through the fictional retelling of his seduction and catastrophically violent betrayal of his reputed first wife, Ida Dalser. Like Hollywood B-movie directors of the golden age who created words out of shadows, Mr. Bellocchio resurrects the tragedy of an entire nation with newsreel footage, some smoke, bits of Futurist art and the image of one Italian son in whose devastated face you see millions.
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