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Il Divo

October 29, 2013

Il Divo (2008)
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Actors: Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Giulio Bosetti

ildivo_88111_78501.jpg (300×210)

Synopsis: The story of Italian politician, Giulio Andreotti (Toni Servillo), from the late 1970s to the early 2000s.

Review: Actors as mise en scene. It’s not mentioned often in film journalism/criticism, but I’ve often found it a very helpful way of thinking about that very tendentious of subjects – film acting. It’s especially relevant to Paolo Sorrentino’s excellent characterisation of the political reign of seven-time Italian PM, Giulio Andreotti in Il Divo, as his use of what I call ‘baroque caricature’ serves so well his story of the epic and internecine levels of corruption in Italian public life that found the suitably opaque, vampiric presence of Andreotti at the centre of it.

Toni Servillo’s turn as Andreotti is what gives the film so much of its bite. It’s mainly an externalised performance with the hunched back, strange walk-cum-shuffle, bizarre hand movements and dead eyes giving Andreotti the impression of a man either utterly in denial about the swirl of power behind him or playing the most riotously straight of poker faces. But it’s internalised too, with Servillo conveying just enough of the repressed stress and emotion, which gives fantastic pay-off in a pseudo-fantasy sequence where Andreotti manically confesses to all the deaths and misery caused by the violence and corruption of his period in office.

Sorrentino finds other ways beyond the people he populates the film with to tell his story. Befitting the labyrinth plotting, his extrovert camerawork is to the fore, especially in an ingenious tracking shot (echoing the great nightclub opening to The Great Beauty) when all the politicians are engaged in a raucous Latin party, only to find Andreotti – as austere and impassive as usual – sat on a chair in the middle of the maelstrom, being attended to by various pleaders and sycophants. (October 2013)

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