Operatic and didactic in a Godardian way, Vincere is a surprisingly interesting film from Italian Director Marco Bellocchio. There are two stories going on here. One is the story of the rise of Fascism in Italy between the wars. The face of this rise is of course, Benito Mussolini. The other story concerns Mussolini’s lover, Ida Dalser. There is some indication that she was actually Il Duce’s first wife, but documentary evidence either does not exist or was secreted away by Dalser herself.
Ida Dalser was seduced by the charisma and politics of the young Mussolini, only to later be betrayed by him. The beauty of the film is that the same can be said of Mussolini’s leadership of Italy between and into the second world war: seduced, abandoned and betrayed. This is not immediately apparent. The focus, after the initial whirlwind tour of Mussolini’s politics, is on the affair between the soon to be fascist leader and Milanese dress shop owner, Ida Dalser. Later, when she and her son are separated (both end up in insane asylum’s Russian style) the sense of the headlong hurtle into the abyss by Italy increasingly brings the parallels into focus.
The acting by Giovanna Mezzogiorno is superb. She nails the jilted lover, and nails the woman clinging to sanity in the face of a police state that marginalizes her. Filippo Timi plays the dual roles of the young Mussolini and his son by Ida. While Ida seems never to have been really mad, the same cannot be said of Benito Albino. When he apes – and I mean apes – his father, it’s a chilling parody of Il Duce.
This film is innovative without being obtuse, it presents larger than life characterizations without being cut-out comic, even as characterizations of Mussolini call out for parody. The film seems melodramatic while viewing, but it leaves a thoughtful aftertaste. A must-see.