Italian import Vincere, a richly photographed historical drama that
charts the life of the discarded mistress of fascist, war-mongering dictator Benito Mussolini, would be sort of interesting to view with
Rielle Hunter, the flighty New Age lover (and baby mama) of erstwhile
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. After all, her insights
into the continued love of a man who would very publicly and harshly
disown his own progeny could be considerable.
Written and directed by Marco Bellocchio (Fists in the Pocket), Vincere (which translates as “to win”) chronicles the largely unknown story of the secret marriage of Mussolini (Filippo Timi, above third from left) to Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), a woman whom Il Duce meets when he’s a rising star in the Socialist movement. Inspired by the intensity of his beliefs, Dalser sells off all of her belongings to fund the newspaper that would eventually launch his political career. After bearing him a son, though, Dalser discovers that Mussolini already has another family, and he will do everything in his power to keep her away from them. She rants and rages, but finds out it’s hard to fight a dictator.
Purely in terms of information, and the manner in which this peek behind the fascist curtain informs an understanding of Italy leading up to World War II, Vincere is of historical interest. But while undeniably told with passion and verve — it feels almost operatic at times — Vincere is a basically nativist document that bogs down because of unresolved tension between its conflicting political and melodramatic instincts. Early on, Bellocchio establishes the primal, almost animalistic connection between Dalser and Mussolini with little dialogue, and for a while seems intent on exploring a very intriguing idea — the notion of women responding so nakedly to provocation, aggression and accumulated power. Eventually, though, Bellocchio mostly abandons this focus, so when Dalser, committed to an insane asylum for refusing to recant her paternity claims, asserts that Il Duce is merely “testing her” and mentally preparing her for an eventual reunion… well, it runs counter to evidenced fact, and tips the movie over into crazy-mistress Lifetime movie territory. At least that’s a man’s reading; I’m not yet sure Rielle Hunter would think. (IFC Films, R, 122 minutes)