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Review: Il Divo

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The lethal sarcasm of "divo" Andreotti


- A difficult subject ­ the darkest chapters of Italian politics, which have never truly been closed ­ told through a free and highly modern cinematic language

Review: Il Divo

As explosive as a bomb, as forceful as a rushing river, Paolo Sorrentino¹s Il Divo [+see also:
film focus
interview: Nicola Giuliano
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
interview: Philippe Desandre
film profile
left the Croisette and the Cannes Film Festival with the Jury Prize.

Having definitively taken the path of the grotesque and hyperbolic, Sorrentino has broadened the cinematic language he previously experimented in The Family Friend to recount 40 (grotesque and hyperbolic) years of Italian history through the figure that best represents it, Giulio Andreotti.

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A Christian Democrat and seven-time Prime Minister, Andreotti was over the years nicknamed Beelzebub, Eternity, The First Letter of the Alphabet, The Indecipherable, God Giulio; accused of having ties with secret Masonic lodges (Licio Gelli’s P2) and with the Sicilian Mafia; investigated for the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli. He has appeared 26 times before parliamentary investigation commissions and his favourite saying, stolen from Talleyrand, is: "Power wears out those who don’t have it".

The film, which opens with a glossary that ironically should help viewers understand Italian politics, immediately begins presenting Andreotti’s court, the members of his political inner circle: Cirino Pomicino, always surrounded by beautiful women; Vittorio Sbardella, named the “shark”; and Giuseppe Ciarrapico, Franco Evangelisti and Salvo Lima (who was later killed by the mob).

It continues with an infinite tracking shot of characters that non-Italian audiences will have trouble remembering: other prelates, generals, judges and Mafia “pentiti”. At the centre lies the “deity” (played by Toni Servillo, complete with pointy ears and a hump on his back), with this terrible migraines and his secret intrigues.

The dialogue – which hails from the repertoire of Andreotti, a man with a ferocious sarcasm – and tragicomic situations flow rapidly, all the more contorted by an ingenious and mature director, and underscored by a good choice in rock music. The urgent and farcical style recall Elio Petri of We Still Kill the Old Way, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (winners at Cannes in 1967 and 1970, respectively) and Todo modo. What emerges is a portrait of a grey man who is not particularly intelligent (according to his tender but strict wife Livia), and whose political career seems to have been dedicated to evil.

(Translated from Italian)


original title: Il Divo
country: Italy, France
sales agent: Beta Cinema
year: 2008
directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
screenplay: Paolo Sorrentino
cast: Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Piera Degli Esposti, Paolo Graziosi, Giulio Bosetti

main awards/selection

Cannes 2008 Official Competition
Jury Prize
European Film Awards 2008 Best Actor (Toni Servillo)

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