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‘Il Divo’ review: Italian politics, corruption and murder

Rotating Compass & Square - Arts & Entertainment

'Il Divo' review: Italian politics, corruption and murder

July 18, 2009

Ryan McNally
Atlanta Movies Examiner

Il Divo, Italy, Freemasonry, Freemasons

Il Divo, Italy, Freemasonry, Freemasons

Il Divo, Italy, Freemasonry, Freemasons

Il Divo, Italy, Freemasonry, Freemasons

“We learn from the Gospel that when they asked Jesus what truth was, he did not reply.” The words of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, seven-time prime minister, define the Cannes Jury winner Il Divo, a biopic of Andreotti that portrays the controversial figure in decidedly ambiguous terms.

Il Divo begins in the spring of 1991, as Andreotti commences his seventh term as prime minister. We meet his trusted cabinet, a smorgasboard of politicians, religious figures, businessman and enforcers. And in vivid flashbacks, director Paolo Sorrentino details a startling array of murders and “suicides” that Andreotti may have been involved in, most notably the murder of rival Aldo Moro while Andreotti was in power in the late ‘70s, a death that continues to plague him nearly 15 years later.

As depicted in Il Divo, Andreotti is a master politician, always keeping his emotions and motives under wraps even while delivering witty one-liners—musings that often fail to answer the question being asked. In 1992 he makes a bid for the presidency of the Republic. But instead of crowning his career, his attempt at higher office marks a negative turn in fortune, as his cabinet crumbles under charges of corruption and the Christian Democrat party he leads is destroyed.

Despite his political savvy, Andreotti himself is unable to escape increased scrutiny into his ties with the Mafia and neo-Fascist organization Masonic Lodge P2. In the Italian “Trial of the Century,” he faces charges of corruption, collusion and murder. Is Andreotti the most cunning criminal in the country or the most persecuted man in the history of Italy?

With captions that emerge on the screen from various angles and trajectories, and vivid award-winning cinematography captured by Luca Bigazzi, Il Divo makes for a dynamic viewing experience. Toni Servillo, playing Andreotti as a hunched, tightly wrapped, enigmatic figurehead, delivers a performance of considerable intensity. And director Sorrentino admirably hints at Andreotti’s psychologically complex, contradictory persona without reducing him to cliché.

All Il Divo’s stylistic flourishes, though, sometimes feel like they’re masking an unremarkable story. A politician besieged by charges of corruption, inappropriate alliances with criminal organization and even murder? Been there, done that. And focusing on Andreotti’s ambiguity and elusiveness has a downside: sometimes you feel like Il Divo is content to work on the surface, skimming through a cavalcade of political figures, dealings and factoids but neglecting to cut deeper into their implications.

Still, there are enough positives to make Il Divo a worthy addition to the biopic genre. As the camera frames Andreotti’s ever-evasive face in the final shot and the color gradually seeps out from the image, the politican’s own words come to mind: “Thinking ill of your fellow man is a sin, but you’ve guessed right.”

Grade: B

Il Divo trailer:

Further Reading:

Freemasonry in Italy