Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere”: A Review
Marco Bellocchio sets history a-twirl in the opening minutes of his Cannes-buzzed melodrama Vincere, cutting between set-ups in Trent 1907 and Milan 1914 and back again, tripping the wire on linear narrative with rapid-fire bursts of under-contextualized, nonsynchronous events. We are somewhere in time. A young Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi), then-editor of Avanti!, addresses a meeting of union representatives by challenging God to strike him dead. He gives the nonexistent deity five minutes to prove he exists. We get far less. Cut. Mussolini evades capture by embracing and passionately kissing a beautiful woman in the street. His blood stains her hand. Cut. Mussolini grinds away at his adoring lover, his ferocious, bulging eyes fixed at a distance far beyond the bedroom. Cut. Black flags unfurl from balcony windows. Cut. War is brewing. Flyers are distributed. Cut to archive. Soldiers march, warplanes roar overhead. Proto-fascist slogans blazon the screen in white scream type. Cut. Cut. Cut.
It’s a whiplash-inducing, noisily theatrical entrance for Il Duce, the full-throttle barrage of images emphasized by Carlo Cavelli’s fittingly bombastic orchestral score. History is thus spread into a thin paste, all the better for Bellocchio to smear it with broad strokes of impasto impressionism. Although Vincere tracks Mussolini’s rise to power, first as a rabble-rousing unionist and newspaper editor who declares that “war will turn the wheel of history with blood,” then as a decorated WWI combat hero, patron of Futurist art, and splenetic Fascist Party demagogue, the true subject of Bellocchio’s heavy-handed, downbeat melodrama is the beatific young woman glimpsed in each of those grandly staged sequences.