Dir: Marco Bellocchio
Based on the true story of Ida Dalser, a middle class Italian woman who was allegedly the first wife of Benito Mussolini, Vincere is a film that passionately seeks to portray the intoxication of first an individual, and later a nation, with the man who would become ‘Q Duce’.
Filippo Timi is utterly convincing as the young dictator who almost indifferently captures the heart of Giovanna Mezzogiorno’s Dalser on his long road to power. For the first half of Vincere, the two actors excel in the chaotic beauty of Bellocchio’s early 1900s Italy.
Vibrant, well-shot and boasting an operatic score entirely in keeping with the momentous events it portrays, the film remains faithful to history; it is, after all, a narrative that needs little embellishment. When Mussolini departs the screen at the end of Vincere’s first act, the focus remains on Dalser, whose obsession with her unrequited love leads to persecution and internment.
The problem is that once Mussolini has exited stage right, the film becomes predictable and repetitive. The Kafka-esque themes of the sane Dalser being subjugated by the eerily insane world of a police state are deftly portrayed, but they contrast too heavily with the energy and vitality of the film’s first act.
This imbalance in Vincere’s structure is relevant to its ideas of Italy as an increasingly repressed nation following the bombast of its earlier years, yet Bellocchio’s decision to take this approach may leave you frustrated at times.