Andreotti as a lethal “god” in Sorrentino’s new film
by Camillo de Marco
23/05/2008 - As explosive as a bomb, as impetuous as a swollen river, Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo [trailer, film focus] (“The Deity”) has arrived on the Croisette, the second Italian film in competition at a winding-down Cannes.
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.
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.
The film is being released on May 28 in Italy and in the autumn will be distributed in France by Studio Canal.
(Translated from Italian)