Monday, 15 February 2010

Il Divo. The spectacular life of Giulio Andreotti

A film directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino, 2008
117 minutes, English subtitled version.
What I know about Italian politics could probably be written on the back of an envelope.  If I were to sum it up it would be that  in the twentieth century its leaders seemed to change on a regular basis. The kidnapping of Aldo Moro in 1978 by the Red Brigade and his death because the government refused to negotiate.  The death of the Vatican's banker, Calvi, found hanging beneath a London bridge, was a window into a dark and murky world of power, politics and religion.

This film has expanded my knowledge.  The director Paolo Sorrentino has made a brave attempt at encapsulating the second half of the 20th century politics in the years of 1991-92.

The right wing Christian Democrats had been in power since 1946 and Guillio Andreotti had been elected president of the council of ministers seven times, and also held some of the great offices of state.  One position he had not occupied was President of the Republic and this film follows his quest for election.  He has his own clique and there is also a link to the shadowy P2 Masonic Lodge.

In the past, Sorrentino shows, opposition to Andriotti has been dealt with by making people disappear in various ways, explosions and machine-guns to name but two.  Murders like that of the journalist Mino Perocelli.  Links with the Mafia are rumoured.  In fact this film has been tagged as "The Godfather meets Nixon".  There are an overwhelming cast of characters which are introduced with subtitles

but Andriotti has many complex entanglements.  I did flag in the middle of the film for about ten minutes as more and more information was given, it seemed overloaded and without direction, but once this was over we were led into the scandal and criminal trial of Andreotti as his political life unravels, and things picked up for this viewer.  This is the scandal that will break the party.

The acting of Toni Servillo playing the part of Guilio Andriotti is amazing.  As the lead and main protagonist one would expect him to dominate the film, but he does more than this and portrays a dark sinister person as he scuttles down the corridors of power, like a giant spider manipulating people and events. But this is not a one dimensional view as he shows the continual physical suffering of headaches, his relationship with his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto) and his secretary.  An impression is given of a person with huge intellect, a rapier like wit, an icy will, who only shows his interior life to very few people. Perhaps his raison d'etre could be summed up in his own words "Power is the disease one has no desire to be cured of".

For the non Italian it is difficult to remember all of the people, some stand out like Pomicino (Carolo Buccirosso) who parties and always seems to have a woman on each arm, Cardinal Angelini (Archille Brungnini) of the church and the reason for the Christian in Christian Democrats, always a strange concept to me as a northern European. I would think a second viewing might seperate a few more, but it does what good films can do, give an insight, and make you want to know more.

Sorrentino has said "all Italian people grow up knowing Andriotti".  He has been called many things such as The Fox, The Black Pope, The Hunchback, Beelzebub and of course Il Divo.  His character remains enigmatic, did he really regret the death of Aldo Moro, did he really break with the mafia. More questions than answers but this film presents a view of the man.

One last word for the cinematography, of Lucca Bigazzi, which helps create the atmosphere, hughe looming classical interiors, dark rainy streets and sparce rooms of power.  A nice mix of classical and sharp staccato modern music completes the film.

For a more informed view of the film read Philip French's review

Here is the English trailer


Debs said...

I'd also recommend "I banchieri di Dio" (The Bankers of God: The Calvi Affair) - it's very complex (how could it NOT be!) but a compelling look at the events leading up to the death of the Vatican's banker, Calvi.

Joy said...

Thanks for the recommend Debs. Il Divo has peeked my interest so I will definitely put I Banchieri on my 'to be seen' list.