It won’t stop raining here in Ohio – it’s a good day to stay at home and watch an Italian movie. If you’re with me, try a relatively recent one (2009) from Marco Bellocchio, Vincere (to win), available for instant viewing at Netflix. It’s the story of Mussolini’s obsessed and slightly crazy secret mistress (wife?) and stars Giovanna Mezzogiorno,(Don’t Tell), Filippo Timi (The Double Hour), and Bellocchio’s son Pier Giorgio Bellocchio. Mezzogiorno won a best actress award from the (American) National Society of Film Critics for her role in this movie.
Here’s my previously posted review.
In the movie “VIncere“, Benito Mussolini knows the kind of sweet talk that a girl like Ida Dalser wants to hear, and he gets everybody else’s attention with it too.
He begins a debate by placing a watch on a table. “Io sfido Dio – I challenge God. I give him 5 minutes to strike me dead. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t exist. I’m ready.”
He waits the 5 minutes and then, “Times up. God doesn’t exist.”
Everybody goes nuts, shouting and calling him names, but Ida trembles with desire and adoration – she’s smitten. The director of Vincere, Marco Bellochio seems to be taking the position that she was in fact Mussolini’s lawfully wedded wife, but in real life we don’t know for sure. We do know that he took her adoration, used it, and ruined her life, along with that of their son.In a way, this is just your ordinary “boy’s an abusive pig, girl gets off on abuse” kind of love story, but the significance and consequences of their screwed up relationship are what matters here. Mussolini reminds me of Hitler in that you see a video of him speaking and you think, “Really? People thought he was charismatic? Hmmm. I don’t see it.” But of course people did, and people like Ida were ready to lay down their lives for him. What must that be like?
Mussolini takes full advantage and lets her pay his bills so that he can start his newspaper and launch his infamous career, and she never really lets go of him, insisting to the end to be the real first wife of Benito Mussolini, even when he’s trying to pretend the whole thing never happened. All kinds of people try to get her to zip it – for her own good. They’ve taken away her son and tossed her into the loony bin. In the hospital, you can tell that the sisters pity her, and a psychiatrist urges her to play along. He says they all have to be actors during this regime, just to save themselves.
But Ida is a dog with a bone and refuses to give up. She will not lie. She is the true wife of Benito Mussolini and insists it be known at all costs. At – all – costs. The movies title, Vincere, comes from a song that the fascists used to sing:
Vincere! Vincere! Vincere!
Ad ogni costo, nessun ci fermerà!
To win, to win, to win!
At any cost, no one will stop us!
I guess this is what happens when two lovers will do anything, at any cost, to win, vincere. The first, to trample the one who loves him, and the other, to never give up on the one who is trampling her. If only one of them had been a little less determined.
Ida’s son, meanwhile has been sent to an orphanage. He asks a nun when his mother will come to get him and she tells him, “after she gets better”. He asks where his father is and she tell him, “He has to save Italy – don’t be selfish.” If he’s selfish, he sure comes by it honestly.
This is a powerful movie, well written, superbly acted, and beautifully filmed. I usually think of Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who plays Ida, as an over-actor, but this time it serves her well. She reminds me of one of those old time actresses like Anna Magnani in “Mamma Roma” – fierce and proud in kind of a scary way. Bellochio’s use of old newsreel and dreamy imagery keeps us floating between fact and fiction, and makes the story real, no matter what really happened.