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November 19, 2009

SDFF 2009 - Vincere

vincere 1.jpg

Marco Bellocchio - 2009
IFC Films 35mm film

Vincere is chock full of breathtaking images. We see Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) climb the iron bars inside the asylum where she is confined, high above the floor, looking ahead at the large flakes of snow falling outside. Much of Marco Bellocchio's imagery is informed by films of, and about, the era in which the film primarily takes place, from 1914 to 1936. The images may not recall specific films as much as the memory of both classic epics and the avant-garde films of that time. The story is a partially fictionalized account about Benito Mussolini's first wife, Ida Dalser, and their son, both of whom Mussolini attempted to hide both physically and with the removal of documented evidence of his relationship, during his rise to power.

Even before the scene takes place with Mussolini attending a Futurist art exhibit, Bellocchio incorporates old black and white footage, futurism expressed in film, of an industrial Italy. The futurist poet, Marinetti, is indirectly quoted when one of Mussolini's supporters compares war to hygiene, and Mussolini describes the "rat-tat-tat" of a machine gun to poetry. Several scenes in the film revolve around watching movies, with excerpts from the Italian silent movie Christus and Chaplin's The Kid used in addition to both silent and sound news reels. Newspaper headlines are also displayed in close ups, a deliberate throwback invoking older movies. Vincere is in part a film about the rise of mass communication in the early 20th Century, and its use not only to distribute information, but to shape opinion.

vincere 2.jpg

The creation of a newspaper is moment that changes everything for Dalser and Mussolini. In love with the young firebrand, Ida Dalser sells her dress shop and other belongings in order to finance her lover's dream of a newspaper. The idealistic man, under protest, accepts the money as a loan. A short time later, Dalser discovers that her lover is married. Wounded in battle in World War I, the rebel who voiced his rage against church and state, has begun the process of consolidating his power with the approval of his former enemies. Ida Dalser is shuttered from sight, first at her sister's house in the northern countryside, and finally in a series of mental institutions. Neither the financial debt that helped establish the political foundation, nor the son born out of wedlock bearing his father's name, are acknowledged by Mussolini.

As grim as the story is, Bellocchio leavens the film with humor. The audience watching footage of Italy in a debatable war, voices their opposing opinions, escalating to a fist fight within the theater. The scuffling men are seen in silhouette against the black and white footage of battle, while the theater's pianist continues to play. Mussolini's theatrical speeches, the glower, the pursed lips, seen in documentary footage, is parodied by the son, portrayed by Filippo Timi, who also plays the onscreen version of Mussolini in his younger days.

Mothers and sons has been a continuing topic for Bellocchio since Fist in his Pockets in 1965. Watching some of his films in chronological order, the films suggest an evolution from the time of his debut feature to the older man who made The Nanny and My Mother's Smile, from a rebelling against the family, to having the family as central to one's life. Historians might quibble with certain liberties taken in Vincere, the Italian word for "win". What can not be disputed is Marco Bellocchio has made a film as energetic as those he made when his film career had just begun.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 19, 2009 12:00 AM


Very good website ! Thank you very much for your words, and also for the pictures.

Posted by: Gols at November 19, 2009 09:24 AM

Ah, the movie you describe is one I want to see, I think!

Posted by: Andy at November 19, 2009 10:23 AM

Peter - this was the one that got away at the CIFF. I've heard (and can see from the screencaps) that it is gorgeous and epic. But did you think it was a really good film?

Posted by: Marilyn at November 20, 2009 01:19 PM

Yes, I think Vincere is very good, very much worth seeing.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at November 20, 2009 02:01 PM

Those images are so beautiful that I want to see it, too!

Posted by: larry aydlette at November 20, 2009 08:57 PM

Very great movie. I loved it and Giovanna Mezzogiorno is fabulous ! This movie needs to be seen, for sure !

Posted by: Yazid Manou at December 20, 2009 06:35 AM