In Marco Bellocchio's operatic historical melodrama "Vincere," a beautiful woman, intoxicated by sexual desire and political sloganeering, abandons all judgment and reason, losing her money, her freedom and her son, in that order.
The woman, Ida Dalser, happened to fall for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and Bellocchio uses her delusion as a metaphor for the madness that befell his own country during Mussolini's rise to power in the aftermath of the First World War. Dalser's story, suppressed during Mussolini's rule, has come to light only fairly recently and, in Bellochio's riveting, cinematic film, makes for a harrowing tragedy on both a personal and global level.
The movie opens in 1914 with a young Mussolini (Filippo Timi), then a committed socialist, causing riots with inflammatory speeches about the tyranny of religion and monarchy.
Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) watches, entranced by his words and aroused by their effect on the populace. She and Mussolini enjoy some charged bedroom encounters, leading Dalser to sell all her possessions to cover the publishing costs of Mussolini's newspaper.
But shortly after Dalser bears him a son, Mussolini abandons her - and socialism - marrying another woman and adopting an authoritarian political streak.
Bellocchio tells the film's historical story in an electrifying fashion, mixing in newsreel footage, on-screen slogans and Futurist art.
Is it over-the-top? Yes and your point? "Vincere" is an Italian movie about a pompous dictator. What better way to tell the story?