Il Divo


“I recognize my limits but when I look around I realise I am not living exactly in a world of giants,” says Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s dominant post-Second World War politician, in Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Il Divo’, the most exciting narrative fiction feature film I’ve seen this year.

Sorrentino’s films look like Edward Hopper paintings, dreamed by people who have been lying face down in the mud after attending a mid-90s rave.  And that’s a compliment.  His ‘The Consequences of Love’ is one of the most compelling (in story) and enthralling – in sound and image – films of the past decade.  He fuses elegantly structured images with dance music to tell tales about broken men – Mafia accountants, small town moneylenders, and, in ‘Il Divo’, his current film, corrupt Prime Ministers who end up appearing to be the embodiment of menace.  The protagonists in ‘Consequences’, ‘Il Divo’, and ‘The Family Friend’ (the moneylender) are all capable of evil while feeling sorry for themselves; Sorrentino is so good at getting under the skin of his guys that his skill with surfaces seems almost contradictory.

‘Il Divo’ is a complicated film if, like me, you lack intimate knowledge of Italian politics since 1972 (!); but its central performance is so detailed and immersive that you’ll forget you don’t know who’s who at any given point – the roll call of Mafia hoods, Catholic cardinals, and elected representatives eventually blending into a seamless garment of corrupted power.  And you’re never in any doubt over who is in charge: Andreotti rules the world, and the actor Toni Servillo rules the film, his performance an invitation to face the terror of what happens when greed and ego combine to shred their victim’s moral compass.

The most resonant thing I can say about ‘Il Divo’?

It’s the film ‘The Godfather Part III’ could have been.


One response to “Il Divo

  1. I had the pleasure of seeing “Il Divo” at the Seattle International Film Festival and loved it! It’s often suggested (part in jest) that you really need a Ph.D in post-WWII Italian politics or something to that effect to fully understand the contemporary landscape of Italy’s governmental affairs.

    However, knowing NOTHING about the internal workings of Italian government and political tapestry, modern day or otherwise, did not prevent me from enjoying this film for what it was — a great and provocative thriller about political intrigue that never lets up! Yes, the film assaults the senses but in a good way that leaves you begging for more as you mentioned the endless hit list parade and array of mafia bosses, Catholic cardinals, elected representatives, etc, that eventually blend into one giant monolith of corruption (with a capital C!). And who hovers over this extensive body politic? Yes, none other than the all controlling President Giulio Andreotti (Prime Minister of the Council, as I understand it) who has mastered the essence of “speaking softly but carrying a big stick!” This guy is a walking exercise in Machiavellian machinations. When he decries foul amongst the charges being levied against him, his POV appeal to the Italian authorities and by extension to the audience, almost makes you believe him. The most persecuted man in Italy OR the most devious, manipulative criminal SOB, you be the judge. Clearly Paolo Sorrentino chooses the latter side of things but he’s not afraid to put his subject up front and center and allow him the possibility of charming the viewer with words that are like windsong!

    And don’t get me started on that crazy/sexy/cool European hyper- stylized filmmaking attack of “Il Divo” that Sorrentino delivers because I’d be here all day typing away. LOVED IT!!! Who knew great storytelling and flashiness could coexist? I echo your sentiments Professor; this is a great narrative film full of fun and excitement! With my last bit of hyperbole I’ll simply say — Bravo!
    — La-Tonia Denise Willis