Vincere DVD

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The inability of Mussolini's mistress to let go

Nov 1, 2010 (Updated Sep 30, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:looks (period, composition), gratuitous nudity

Cons:sad, but who cares about one discarded mistress of a monster?

The Bottom Line: Who cares about an accomplice of Mussolini's rise being disappointed at lack of recognition? Who cares for 124 minutes?


I presume that Marco Bellocchio’s 2009 movie about Mussolini’s obsessed discarded mistress is called “Vincere” (Win or Victory) ironically, though I am not sure whose defeat and destruction it references.

The movie has some very striking visual compositions, including flashing graphics out of silent-film days and a fervent performance by Giovanna Mezzogiorno, a woman who gave her wealth and body and faith to young socialist Benito Mussolini, bore him a son, and became a pest demanding recognition as his wife. Whether she went crazy from his rejection or was locked up as crazy to keep her from embarrassing him in public is pretty much a distinction without a difference for her, since either way she’s kept in an asylum and separated from her son.

We see the son, Benito (Jr.), at three different ages. The final, young adult one has Filippo Timi, who played Benito Sr. at the start, having passionate sex with Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Benito Jr. is eventually locked up in an asylum, too.

For the scenes after 1920, Benito is the real jutting-jaw Mussolini in newsreel footage. I don’t think that Filippo Timi looks like he could age into this man, though playing Benito Jr., Timi can mimic the bombast of  the real Benito Sr.

So, it’s a sad story for Ida and her illegitimate son. They are mistreated, but who cares? It’s not like Mussolini was otherwise a good man, whose only cruelty was visited on his mistress and illegitimate son! A lot of Italians and Africans suffered from fascism and Mussolini’s imperial ventures. It’s not like anyone is just learning that Mussolini wasn’t a saint, or can be shocked that his erotic life contradicted his public benigness!

Insofar as Ida Dalser suffered, her having helped launch Il Duce makes her more culpable than many. She at least got some passionate sex from the future dictator! And, her mistreatment did not weaken her adoration of Il Duce one bit.

I don’t much care that her heart was broken, and don’t understand why Bellocchio wanted to make amove about her as  tragic victim. (I know from his not-very-good 1984 film of Pirandello’s “Enrico IV” that Bellocchio has a longstanding interest in feigning madness and the truth-telling of the institutionalized, but the only “truth” that concerns Dalser is that she bore a son to the maximum leader. And deranged family members go back even farther in Bellocchio’s filmography, to the 1965 “Fist in His Pocket” that first attracted international attention.)

Mezzogiorno is a ferocious presence and certainly not inhibited about nude exposure in unflattering light and from unflattering angles. In the second half of the movie, she literally climbs the walls, but does not have an antagonist within range. She is maddened about being made a non-person, but she’s more interesting with someone to play off, if not play with. Her best scene after Mussolini rids himself of her is a sanity hearing with a panel of people who listen to her  and an appeal to the mother superior in charge of the asylum in which she is confined to let her see her son.

The only IFC DVD bonus feature is a trailer. Very irritatingly, one cannot bring up the main menu before going through (clicking through) other trailers.

©2010, Stephen O. Murray


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