No one likes a fascist and a friend of Hitler’s is no friend of mine. But nobody’s pretending that Italian leader Mussolini was ever a nice guy. Big bad Benito ordered for hospitals to be obliterated, prisoners to be executed without trial and anyone prophesising the end of fascist rule to be slain on the spot. All in all an egotistic power-crazed kook and not someone to have round the table at your fantasy Come Dine With Me.
His knack for nastiness existed not just on the international stage but in his home life too. Until recently the tragic story of his first mistress Ida Dalser was lost to the past. Now it is retold in Vincere, a moving melodrama which has all the brash boldness of Il Duce himself.
Sent quivering by his powerful speeches and enormous ambition, Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) falls madly in love with Mussolini (Filippo Timi) when he is just an unknown political activist in Milan. Selling everything she owns to fund his propoganda newspaper, Dalser weds the future fascist and raises his first child.
The passion is reciprocated until he gets closer to his dream and she is cut off completely as he becomes leader of Italy. Mad with anguish, Dalser refuses to let him leave her but, now becoming an embarrassment to the Fascist regime, is thrown in an asylum.
Here she refuses to drop her claim to Mussolini, but in doing so confirms doctors’ belief that she is deluded – Mussolini has had their marriage records destroyed and his party denies her existence.
Full of iconic shots, heartwrenching scenes and a powerful score, Vincere (which translates as a battle cry for ‘Win’) has all the makings of a fully-blown opera.
The film has extensive use of archive footage of Mussolini, and though Timi bears only a slight resemblance, scenes follow on smoothly and it puts the story in its historical context. As Mussolini becomes more distant to Ida, we see him in the only way she can – on the newsreels of the time.
Mezzogiorno is mesmerising as the downtrodden Ida, despite her poor choice of lover you can’t help but empathise with her at every step of her horrific demise. Timi captures Mussolini’s swagger to a tea – the scene where he challenges God to strike him down and prove his existence helps you understand how a nation was seduced by his charm.
A passionate and powerful film based on the tragic true story of a woman who, just like Italy, fell in love and was abandoned by the monstrous Mussolini.