Masterfully conceived and skillfully executed, Marco Bellocchio's examination of Mussolini's rise to power, at the great expense his first wife, is an unforgettable blending of elevated cinematic language. "Vincere" means "win," and its import becomes apparent during the young Benito Mussolini's passionate affair with a woman named Ida Dalser (powerfully played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno - "Love in the Time of Cholera"). Ida sells all of her property and possessions to finance the propaganda-driven newspaper that Mussolini (played with fury by Filippo Timi) dreams of starting in 1914. In spite of birthing Mussolini's first-born child in 1915--a boy bearing his father's name--Ida is rejected by the would-be dictator after he marries another woman, even if Ida briefly serves as his mistress. When Ida publicly demands to be recognized as his first wife and mother to his heir, Mussolini exiles Ida and their son to her sister's guarded house from which she continually writes letters to public officials, begging for their assistance. In 1926 Ida makes the terrible mistake of attempting to carry out an assassination on Mussolini, and is imprisoned in a mental institution that will serve as her cage for most of her life. The filmmaker makes fantastic use of historic archive footage of Mussolini, along with brilliantly stylized sequences of tragic beauty, to give the film an epic scope that mints itself in the viewers mind. The terrible suffering that Ida endures in the mental institution becomes a kind of totem upon which the hopes and dreams of Italy are set asunder by its maniacal leader. Here is a deconstructionist masterpiece about Italy's fascist history that will sweep you up in its personal connection to one woman's passionate story at the hands of a monster.
Not Rated. 122 mins. (A) (Five Stars)
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