Il Divo is a montage of power, how it is assembled and how it is wielded. With almost unrestricted power, the source is diffused in such a way that it is difficult to unravel. The higher up one goes, the less one seems to see actual power being used. There may be scandals, there may be intimidation, there may be corruption – and at the extreme there may even be assassination. But at the higher levels there is the aura of the rule of law. Or the moral authority of God, or the Church. It’s the underlings and minions who prop up the throne with a political amorality that is diffuse and pervasive. In ‘democratic’ societies, this is the way we prefer our leaders – above the fray, hands clean. The vision may be a just and caring society, but the mission is mostly by whatever means necessary. We call the entity as a whole “political machines”.
In Italy, there is the additional wild card of the Catholic Church. Andreotti’s party and the way it wielded power, exercised authority, has great synergies with the Church. Director Sorrentino plays this card sparingly, only just hinting. I believe this may have been one of the most important strategic decision the film-makers made.
Toni Servillo, as Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, shows a face to the world that is almost kabuki-like. The mask both hides and projects: mystery, ambiguity, complexity and implacability. The shuffling body language is extraordinary as if he’s moving invisibly through his domain, not leaving a ripple. There is one exception where Andreotti-Servillo depart from the in-control politician. This exception also is a master stroke that would seem a departure, but acts as a cathartic confession, an imaginary sequence, highly operatic, where Andreotti blurts out his confession and sins to his wife, Livia.
There is a scene in the Senate when results of the ballot have just been announced and Andreotti and his faction have just been soundly defeated. Applause erupts, Andreotti joins in. One of the politicians turns to a colleague and says,
Keep watching him. Watch and learn how to behave.
The same may be said about good actors and their roles. Not accidentally, Servillo plays Andreotti as an actor. No surprise. Politicians are manipulators, and actors of the first order. Andreotti’s favorite film? Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. The film played at TIFF 08, and I missed it there. I blinked, and it breezed through Boston before I had a chance to take it in.