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||IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from NOT RATED votes
||Release: 28 May 2008 /
||Genre: Biography, Drama
||Director: Paolo Sorrentino,
||Stars: Biography, Drama
||Synopsis: The story of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, who has served as Prime Minister of Italy seven times since the restoration of democracy in 1946.
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Il Divo, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and has recently
been released in US movie houses, is a devastatingly ironic and highly
stylized portrait of the strange, extraordinarily powerful and
long-lived Italian politician Giulio Andreotti. He has been in Italian
government in some office or other since the late 1940's. After
slipping out of repeated convictions for Mafia ties in the past decade
he remains "senator for life" at the age of 90, and he's been credited
with helping bring down governments even quite recently.
The ultimate political survivor, Andreotti was seven times prime
minister from 1972 to 1992. He's had a seat in the Italian parliament
without interruption since 1946, and has also been Defense Minister,
Foreign Minister, and President. In Andreotti's own view (though he
walked out on the film) his wife of 60 years Livia (Anna Bonaiuto) and
his long-serving secretary Vincenza Enea (Piera Degli Esposti), are
both sympathetically portrayed in Il Divo. He really didn't like being
shown kissing Mafia boss Toto Riina, which he has said never happened.
In the film, Andreotti is most haunted by the Red Brigades' murder of
the kidnapped of Aldo Moro, which he might have prevented.
Though Sorrentino's film is in some ways a detailed chronicle of
Anreotti's 60-plus years of political power and dubious dealings, with
a focus on the seventh government and its aftermath, the film seems
more an exercise in style than an impassioned study of politics. The
self-consciousness of its frequent uses of loud contrasting music,
ceremonial, almost Kabuuki-like set pieces, and slow-motion to muffle
scenes of violence are further underlined by the performance of Toni
Servillo, who accurately, perhaps too accuately, mimics Andreotti's
look, his hunched posture, even his oddly turned-down ears, and his
puppet-like mannerisms. Staring forward, neck rigid, he keeps his arms
close to his body and his hands turned inward and peers
expressionlessly out of his big eyeglasses. He walks across the floor
in quick tiny steps like some 18th-century Japanese court lady. There
is no attempt by director or principal actor to charm or to involve. It
seems Sorrentino, with Servillo's diligent collaboration, is laughing
not only at Andreotti and at Italian politics, but at us.
Il Divo is soulless and cynical, but it is so stylish that it's bound
to be remembered. It's some kind of ultimate statement of the essence
of the slick, heavily-guarded world of Italian political corruption. In
its own special, magisterially mean-spirited and pessimistic way it's
an instant classic.
In this film, Andreotti, who has been referred to as "Il divo Giulio"
("The God Giulio," referencing the Roman Empire's deification of Julius
Caesar), and by monikers like "Beelzebub," "The Fox," "The Black Pope,"
"The Prince of Darkness," and "The Hunchback," is a queer, nerdy,
mummified-looking creature who hardly ever changes expression or cracks
a smile. His rigid gestures and the odd commentary of his group of
primary supporters, themselves all provided with gangster-style
nicknames, lead to a series of scenes that suggest politics as
caricatural facade, as almost pure ritual, with time out on occasion
for jokes, self-pity, and cruelty to others. You won't hear
constituents mentioned in this movie, though when somebody says another
politician prays to God but he prays to the priest, Andreotti answers:
"Priests vote. God doesn't." Politics is everything to him, and
politics means the pursuit of power.
For a non-Italian the details of various moments from the Aldo Moro
kidnapping and all the terrorism of the Brigate Rosse of the 1970's to
the 1990 Mafia trials may be pretty confusing. It's not that the
filmmakers don't care; they're primarily talking to an Italian
audience. But even for such an audience, they're keeping an ironic
The facade never cracks. In one scene, typically staring straight
forward, Andreotti delivers an impassioned speech of self-defense,
raising his voice almost to a shout at the end, but without moving a
muscle of his face. Servillo is a noted man of the theater in Italy and
his whole performance is a chilly tour de force that inspires awe
without giving much pleasure. Andreotti in this soliloquy--which
highlights the film's often solipsistic feel--argues that a leader must
manipulate evil in order to maintain good. This may fit in with the
evidence that he collaborated with the Mafia, and yet at times was
severe in repressing it.
In life as in this film Andreotti has compensated for what may be the
lack of visible humanity by being a wit, and Il Divo crams as many of
the famous battute or one-lineers into scenes as it can. One was "the
trouble with the Pope is that he doesn't know the Vatican." Another:
"They blame me for everything, except the Punic wars." "Signor
Andreotti, how do you keep your conscience clean?" he was once asked.
"I never use it," he replied. Other bons mots among many: "The trouble
with the Red Brigades is they're too serious," and "Power is fatiguing
only to those who don't have it." The world of Italian politics is
baffling to the outsider. Andreotti's cool detachment and wit and this
film's stylized cynicism may be the best approach to its deviousness
Last year Servillo also played one of the main characters in Matteo
Garrone's Gomorrah, where he's an out-and-out Mafia functionary.
Gomorrah won Cannes' number-two award (just below the Golden Palm) the
Grand Prize, last year, which given Il Divo's Jury Prize prompted
declarations of a rebirth of Italian cinema in the making. Non-Italians
like Mafia movies; Italians are sick of them, and might have wished for
patriotic reasons that their best filmmakers had won applause by
turning to some other subject matter. Both these films are cold,
detached, and analytical. Maybe they mean Italians are getting serious
about their own film industry and want to look the country's ugliest
aspects right in the eye. But don't look for hope here. A great cinema
requires more humanity than this.
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