26 February 2010

Review: "Il Divo"

Not to be confused with the operatic pop singing group created by Simon Cowell, Il Divo is a 2008 Italian film based on the life of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Prix du Jury, the third most prestigious honour awarded at the festival, behind the Palme d'Or and the Grand Prix. I have not seen very many Italian films and am feeling incapable of even relating one title that I have seen. Although I have a very minimal understanding of Italian (having taken two university courses), I find that native speakers talk far too quickly for me to even begin to follow. The film was directed by Paolo Sorrentino, a young Italian filmmaker whose films have not garnered much international attention. His next effort with be an English-language film that stars reigning Best Actor winner Sean Penn. I remember seeing a trailer for the film during the summer and being very interested, though I imagined it to be more satirical and less focused on relating fact. I enjoyed the film, but I did struggle to follow a lot of the details -- which RottenTomatoes.com highlights. Giulio Andreotti was a seven-time elected Prime Minister of Italy, and Il Divo concentrates on the time period in 1992 when it was suspected that he had ties to the Mafia.

The film begins by highlighting various members of the Italian government and media that had been killed. This was one of the most stylistically brilliant parts of the film, and unfortunately it was ruined by the English-language subtitles that were required to understand the positions held by these men. Toni Servillo (who also starred in Gomorrah, a 2008 Italian film that was featured on many top ten lists) stars as Giulio Andreotti who was the leader of the Christian Democratic party, a political party that often blurred the lines between the government and the Mafia. The film highlights Andreotti's relationships with the members of his staff, his wife and family, and members of the Italian government. It seems evident throughout the film that Andreotti is in collusion with the Mafia, though there may be a lot of artistic license being used. The film is mainly driven by the kidnapping and death of Aldo Moro in 1978. Moro was Andreotti's chief rival, and it is assumed that Andreotti benefited from his untimely death. Unfortunately the film starts to lag about halfway through and the charm and humour seems to dissipate.

Il Divo has been praised for its originality and styling. Aesthetically I found the film to be very original, certainly at the beginning and throughout many other important scenes. My chief complaint is that I do not believe the film works for foreign viewers. There are times when the subtitles are unable (or unwilling) to translate the professions of certain characters on screen because there is dialogue appearing on screen. Toni Servillo was captivating as Giulio Andreotti and the film does belong to him. It is wonderful to watch him emote through his facial expressions. Obviously it is very hard for an outsider to watch the film without having any prior knowledge of Italian politics. Maybe this is why I did not enjoy the film as much as I had hoped. I found it to be a mostly dry and boring biopic when I had envisioned a much more intelligent satire.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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