Il Divo *** 1/2
Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino.
Written By: Paolo Sorrentino.
Starring: Toni Servillo (Giulio Andreotti), Anna Bonaiuto (Livia Danese), Piera Degli Esposti (Signora Enea), Paolo Graziosi (Aldo Moro), Giulio Bosetti (Eugenio Scalfari), Flavio Bucci (Franco Evangelisti), Carlo Buccirosso (Paolo Cirino Pomicino), Giorgio Colangeli (Salvo Lima), Alberto Cracco (Don Mario), Lorenzo Gioielli (Mino Pecorelli), Gianfelice Imparato (Vincenzo Scotti), Massimo Popolizio (Vittorio Sbardella), Aldo Ralli (Giuseppe Ciarrapico).
Over more than a 20 year span, Giulio Andreotti was elected Prime Minister of Italy seven times, embroiled in countless scandals and may have played a role in the deaths of over 200 people. Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo, just one of the many nicknames Andreotti gathered over the years (the others include The Black Pope, Beelzebub, and The Hunchback), tells his story, mainly focusing on Andreotti in the early 1990s, as he looks back on his life in politics, as some of scandals of his past may finally be catching up to him.
If, like me, you only have a vague understanding of Italy’s political landscape, you may at times find yourself lost in the labyrtine plot. The bodies start to pile up early in the film, and never really slows down throughout the film. It seems like almost every other scene, we are witnessing another murder or suicide, or some political or mafia player with ties to Andreotti. But even if you do not know every one of the players who wind up dead, or even necessarily understand why they are being killed, that really is not Sorrentino’s purpose in showing these bodies piling up. His point is to try to show the enormous scale that Andreotti’s corruption and violence spread over his decades in power.
The most amazing part of the movie though is Andreotti himself, played brilliantly by Toni Servillo. As first glance Andreotti seems like an unlikely gangster or politician for the that matter. He is short, he is hunchbacked, he has ears that stick out and glasses that look big even on his overly large head. He is a quiet man who never raises his voice, never seems to say more than a few words in a row. He is a master at sardonic comments, but oddly for a movie about a politician, there is not one point in the film where he makes a speech. The closet he comes in a fantasy sequence where Andreotti finally confesses to his beloved wife all of his crimes. As he suddenly starts talking quicker and louder, he finally starts some genuine emotion, and dare I say it, remorse. And yet, this is also the scene that shows the most insight into Andreotti and why he did what he did - not just for to meet his own ambitions, and stroke his ego, but because he actually believes
Sorrentino’s film never slows down to take a breath - it moves headlong from one sequence to the another with a restless energy. Like Scorsese, Sorrentino’s camera is restless, constantly moving, and probing, placing us inside the characters world. The violence when it comes it quick, harsh and bloody. This is not stylized movie violence, but shocking real violence. Like City of God, it immerses us not just into the entire world of the characters and shows us that while this story is about Andrreotti, it is actually about something much bigger than he is - that is the entire system that is so rotten to the core that it allows someone like Andreotti to become Prime Minister in the first place - and then stay there for 20 years. You would think that the Italian people would have gotten sick of all the corruption and greed, but they moved from Andreotti to Bersolucci - hardly an improvement (the movie is also critical of him, but more from the outside then from the inside). There is something rotten about politics in Italy, and Il Divo shows us some of the shocking reasons as to why.