Truth is the End of the World
Splendidly visual, Il Divo is anything but a biopic of Giulio Andreotti, an austere and prominent Italian politician, 25 times minister and 7 times Prime Minister between 1964 and 1989. It is more of a portrait, fragmented and elusive as they best portraits are; it also offers an unique view on politics and murder during the bonfire of vanities that were Italian politics at the near end of the 20th century.
The only creature that can live long and prosper in a bonfire is a salamander, and that’s precisely what Andreotti (Toni Sorvillo, extraordinary) looks and acts like. Devoid of any visible emotions save for his hand motions, translated to Fanny Ardant in a transient role by his devoted secretary, the Presidente (of the Council, not the Republic, and that’s the problem) “doesn’t succumb to lesser vices” but ice cream. He doesn’t drink anything but water, he doesn’t smoke, he is not cheating on his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto, first seen being bored during the blueprint for the bunga bunga parties to come, during which the Finance ministry makes a fool of himself). Prone to migraines, he toasts with aspirin and read giallos in the Senate. He is as opaque as opaque can be before it gets dark.
Andreotti is by all means a survivor and a loner, a condition emphasised by his constant crossing of gigantic halls of power, in which no one or nothing can come in his way but a Persian cat with vairon eyes. He is opinionated to the point of brilliance, once telling Pope John XXIII “Pardon me Your Holiness but you do not know anything about the Vatican”. He has a dry sense of humour, the mere shadow of a smile touching Sorvillo’s lips when he’s asked the question “Have you ever danced?”, to which he answers “All my life, Madam.”
His entourage, presented one by one at the movie beginning, is a clique of rather shady Christian Democrats, including a cardinal nicknamed “His Healthiness”. When they congregate at Andreotti’s, his secretary announce them by saying “Storm clouds are gathering”, an excellent definition of what is happening. They plot their next moves, wishing but failing to have the Prime Minister elected President. They exchange jokes about past Popes. Andreotti hardly smiles. In a scene stupendous for the banality with which it suggests the growing chasm between him and his wive, they just hold hands watching TV, switching from a news program to a variety show. He doesn’t look at her, lost in thought; she looks at his profile for a long while, searching for the smallest trace of the man she once married. She does not find anything.
Last part of Il Divo deals with Andreotti’s trials and tribulations. The trial of the century opens, based on his presumed links with Mafia boss Toto Riina (Enzo Rai, scary as hell). We know the two met because the event was shown earlier in the movie. Still, Andreotti is so convincing in his denial that one doubts what he just witnessed. Was it magical realism, like the scene in which a skateboard incongruously rolls through the Senate hallway, or was it history? It’s impossible to say. Andreotti is an extra-terrestrial, a very cautious turtle carrying on him the weight of political decades, and you can feel every gram of it leadening, but never weakening his stance. The movie is a fucking masterpiece.