Il Divo: Andreotti, Sorrentino and the need for evil

With Il Divo, a portrait of Giulio Andreotti on the eve of Tangentopoli and the collapse of the First Republic, Paolo Sorrentino offered us a hallucinatory foray into the halls of power.

Il Divo: Andreotti, Sorrentino and the need for evil

All to think that the truth is a right thing, and instead it’s the end of the world! And we cannot allow the end of the world in the name of a right thing!

He is a vampire figure, Giulio Andreotti. A creature of the night, burdened by the weight of a subdued suffering that seems to haunt her incessantly, like a curse. It is no coincidence that the first gesture made by Andreotti ne The celebrity is that of gulping down two glasses of water with a double aspirin, and then crawling silently along the corridors of one’s domestic refuge, returning to be swallowed up by the shadow (the camera pauses several times on his hand which turns off all the switches ). Andreotti basks in the darkness: in the next scene, in the darkness of his bedroom, the Italian Head of Government is a hunched figure reflected in the mirror, at the corner of the frame. A little later we observe him walking slowly along Via del Corso, in a Rome still cloaked in the pre-dawn quiet: an outline almost indistinguishable from that of the agents of his escort, who advance around him with the same, unnatural slowness.

Il divo Giulio by Paolo Sorrentino and Toni Servillo


Il Divo: an image by Paolo Sorrentino

This is the paradox highlighted right from the first images of the film Paolo Sorrentino: an immense, sprawling power, embodied in a small, curved and fragile body. In the same way, behind a mask of impassiveness, the flashes of a lucid and sharp intelligence leak out. “In church, De Gasperi spoke with God; Andreotti with the priest“; “Priests vote, God doesn’t“, is the sly reply of the Prime Minister, before locking himself up in the secrecy of the confession. From then on, Il Divo will oscillate between these two poles: the polysemy of words and the barrier of the unspeakable. In both cases, a ambiguity that endemically distinguishes the character at the heart of the story, almost a way of life which Divus Julius claims with contemptuous pride when, to shield himself from the allusions of the journalist Eugenio Scalfari, he comments sarcastically: “The situation was a little more complex. But that doesn’t just apply to her story… it applies to mine too“.

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Il Divo: an image from the film

Fourth feature film by Paolo Sorrentino, The celebrity debuted in Italian theaters on May 28, 2008, five days after its presentation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Jury Prize. This is the third chapter of the partnership between the Neapolitan director and Tony Servillo, already protagonist in 2001 of Sorrentino’s debut work, L’uomo in più, and in 2004 of his acclaimed The consequences of love. Accompanied by the inevitable curiosity linked to the most important and controversial politician of the last thirty years of the First Republic, The celebrity it will be the film of the decisive consecration of Sorrentino, counted among the leaders of what the press is quick to define as a dazzling renaissance of Italian auteur cinema. It is the period in which, to share with The celebrity the collective enthusiasm of critics and spectators, is Gomorra by Matteo Garrone, also awarded at Cannes and received with even greater resonance among international audiences.

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The mask of Christian Democrat power

The celebrity

Il Divo: a close-up of Toni Servillo

Rewarded at home with seven David di Donatello, including the trophy for Toni Servillo, The celebrity it seems to be linked to that trend of ‘political’ cinema practiced by authors of at least one generation previous to Paolo Sorrentino, then just thirty-six years old. And yet, his film is anything but a reference to tradition: it does not adhere to the conventions of the classic biography, limiting itself to retracing the last act of the career of Giulio Andreotticorresponding to the first half of the nineties, and refuses in full the styles of the judicial drama and the film-investigation. An ideal predecessor, if anything, could be found in Todo modo, a hallucinatory adaptation made thirty years earlier by Elio Petri of Leonardo Sciascia’s novel of the same name. Again, the eye of the camera was on the ruling class of the Christian Democracy and on one of its symbolic faces, the Aldo Moro shadowed by Gian Maria Volonté in the President M.

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Il Divo: an image from the film

Three decades later, Aldo Moro is also recalled The celebrity, but as a presence/absence with which Toni Servillo’s Andreotti is forced to come to terms against his will. Of Petri’s film, after all, Sorrentino recovers the inexorable gloom and the ferociously grotesque register: see in particular the description of the Andreottian current of DC, a gallery of assorted pettiness and human miseries covered in a mellifluous servility. But another trait in common between all mode e The celebrity is the almost dreamlike dimension, capable of transferring the reality of the film from the level of history (which in Petri’s time, in the midst of the historical compromise, was authentic actuality) to the much vaster and more universal level of an eternal “comedy of power “, the rules of which remain invariably valid. And it is on this last level that the specter of Moro reappears, to torment a Macbeth of our times by reawakening the demons of his conscience.

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Il Divo: a profile of Toni Servillo

Immersed in the semi-darkness, seated on a bench in the center of a rigorously symmetrical shot (and symmetries, with that geometric perfection extraneous to reality, here are a distinctive mark of Sorrentino’s direction and Luca Bigazzi’s photography), Giulio Andreotti abandons the his glacial composure to launch into a fluvial monologue-confession on the “misdeeds that power must commit to ensure the well-being and development of the country“. The reasons for Realpolitik, the compromises of morals in the name of an alleged greater good, the responsibilities of power that transcend the laws of ordinary people: these are the principles to which the leader of the DC clings while Italy is being torn apart by massacres of the Mafia and the system of the First Republic collapsed uncontrollably in the wake of the Tangentopoli scandals, starting from that fateful 1992 that would forever change the face and soul of our country.

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Il Divo: Anna Bonaiuto and Toni Servillo

The monstrous, unmentionable contradiction: perpetuating evil to ensure good“. Giulio Andreotti, about to be tried for mafia association, tenderly shakes the hand of his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto) and receives her loving gaze, while on TV Renato Zero sings The best years of our life. Sorrentino does not make him a Richard III, regardless of his ambition (the film also passes for Andreotti’s failed election to the Quirinale); rather he paints him as a servant of the state worn out by power, thus overturning his famous motto. If Judas had to betray Jesus to allow him to be crucified and resurrected, the very Catholic Andreotti in turn considers himself an instrument of the necessity of evil: on behalf of God and on behalf of the State. “We have a mandate, a divine mandate! Does one have to love God so much to understand how necessary evil is to have good? God knows this and I know it too“.

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