Marco Bellocchio’s breathtaking new film provides Ida Dalser — Mussolini’s alleged first wife and the mother of Benito Junior — the voice and vitality that Il Duce took when he left them in asylums to perish anonymously.
In this full-bore cri de coeur for the missus, Bellocchio depicts Dalser as a feisty, resolute, and somewhat delusional woman, rather than some haloed madonna — a figure seared into memory by Giovanna Mezzogiorno’s impassioned performance. Bellocchio contextualizes the torn-out chapter of history with actual propaganda newsreels and declamatory texts that pulsate and surge from the screen.
The “polyexpressive” first half follows the superheated courtship between Dalser and a young, ambitious, but still idealistic Mussolini; her amour fou is pointedly made to parallel the countrywide hysteria for war and, soon enough, fascism. The quieter second half, meanwhile, focuses on her struggle to gain recognition and to reunite with her long lost son.
Read about the 2005 documentary that provides the backstory, learn more about Bellocchio’s storied career, watch Mussolini speak English in a rare 1929 Fox Movietone newsreel, and catch Vincere in theaters or on demand.