Il Divo

Il Divo
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The narration spans the period since the seventh election of Andreotti as Prime Minister of Italy in 1992, until the trial in which he was accused of collusion with the Mafia.

Title:Il Divo
Release Date:May 23, 2008
Production Co.:Indigo Film
Production Countries:France, Italy
Director:Paolo Sorrentino
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:italy, diva, politics, independent film, mafia
Alternative Titles:
  • The Diva - [US]

Il Divo Reviews

  • He is still alive
    by Donna Agustiniani ( on 21 September 2009

    52 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

    A stunning Italian film. And when was the last time I was able to say that? A masterful achievement without concessions to the larger public who doesn't know or care about Italian politics. The film has a life of its own. It's like a Shakespearean adaptation of a modern Mephistopheles. If you don't know who Giulio Andreotti is you will want to know because it feels and looks like a fictional character. How is it possible that someone so obviously guilty of undiluted evil could sit, still, in the senate and being treated like a celebrity worthy of absolute respect. Someone said, only in Italy, but I think that's far too simple. True, Italy seems to award some kind of venerable status to some big criminals that got away with it, one way or another. All of it is here, in "Il Divo" a riveting study, a wildly entertaining X ray of one of the most puzzling figures in modern political history.

  • Italy turns a cold eye on itself
    by Chris Knipp on 16 May 2009

    54 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

    Il Divo, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and has recently been released in US movie houses, is a devastatingly ironic and highly stylized portrait of the strange, extraordinarily powerful and long-lived Italian politician Giulio Andreotti. He has been in Italian government in some office or other since the late 1940's. After slipping out of repeated convictions for Mafia ties in the past decade he remains "senator for life" at the age of 90, and he's been credited with helping bring down governments even quite recently.

    The ultimate political survivor, Andreotti was seven times prime minister from 1972 to 1992. He's had a seat in the Italian parliament without interruption since 1946, and has also been Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, and President. In Andreotti's own view (though he walked out on the film) his wife of 60 years Livia (Anna Bonaiuto) and his long-serving secretary Vincenza Enea (Piera Degli Esposti), are both sympathetically portrayed in Il Divo. He really didn't like being shown kissing Mafia boss Toto Riina, which he has said never happened. In the film, Andreotti is most haunted by the Red Brigades' murder of the kidnapped of Aldo Moro, which he might have prevented.

    Though Sorrentino's film is in some ways a detailed chronicle of Anreotti's 60-plus years of political power and dubious dealings, with a focus on the seventh government and its aftermath, the film seems more an exercise in style than an impassioned study of politics. The self-consciousness of its frequent uses of loud contrasting music, ceremonial, almost Kabuuki-like set pieces, and slow-motion to muffle scenes of violence are further underlined by the performance of Toni Servillo, who accurately, perhaps too accuately, mimics Andreotti's look, his hunched posture, even his oddly turned-down ears, and his puppet-like mannerisms. Staring forward, neck rigid, he keeps his arms close to his body and his hands turned inward and peers expressionlessly out of his big eyeglasses. He walks across the floor in quick tiny steps like some 18th-century Japanese court lady. There is no attempt by director or principal actor to charm or to involve. It seems Sorrentino, with Servillo's diligent collaboration, is laughing not only at Andreotti and at Italian politics, but at us.

    Il Divo is soulless and cynical, but it is so stylish that it's bound to be remembered. It's some kind of ultimate statement of the essence of the slick, heavily-guarded world of Italian political corruption. In its own special, magisterially mean-spirited and pessimistic way it's an instant classic.

    In this film, Andreotti, who has been referred to as "Il divo Giulio" ("The God Giulio," referencing the Roman Empire's deification of Julius Caesar), and by monikers like "Beelzebub," "The Fox," "The Black Pope," "The Prince of Darkness," and "The Hunchback," is a queer, nerdy, mummified-looking creature who hardly ever changes expression or cracks a smile. His rigid gestures and the odd commentary of his group of primary supporters, themselves all provided with gangster-style nicknames, lead to a series of scenes that suggest politics as caricatural facade, as almost pure ritual, with time out on occasion for jokes, self-pity, and cruelty to others. You won't hear constituents mentioned in this movie, though when somebody says another politician prays to God but he prays to the priest, Andreotti answers: "Priests vote. God doesn't." Politics is everything to him, and politics means the pursuit of power.

    For a non-Italian the details of various moments from the Aldo Moro kidnapping and all the terrorism of the Brigate Rosse of the 1970's to the 1990 Mafia trials may be pretty confusing. It's not that the filmmakers don't care; they're primarily talking to an Italian audience. But even for such an audience, they're keeping an ironic distance.

    The facade never cracks. In one scene, typically staring straight forward, Andreotti delivers an impassioned speech of self-defense, raising his voice almost to a shout at the end, but without moving a muscle of his face. Servillo is a noted man of the theater in Italy and his whole performance is a chilly tour de force that inspires awe without giving much pleasure. Andreotti in this soliloquy--which highlights the film's often solipsistic feel--argues that a leader must manipulate evil in order to maintain good. This may fit in with the evidence that he collaborated with the Mafia, and yet at times was severe in repressing it.

    In life as in this film Andreotti has compensated for what may be the lack of visible humanity by being a wit, and Il Divo crams as many of the famous battute or one-lineers into scenes as it can. One was "the trouble with the Pope is that he doesn't know the Vatican." Another: "They blame me for everything, except the Punic wars." "Signor Andreotti, how do you keep your conscience clean?" he was once asked. "I never use it," he replied. Other bons mots among many: "The trouble with the Red Brigades is they're too serious," and "Power is fatiguing only to those who don't have it." The world of Italian politics is baffling to the outsider. Andreotti's cool detachment and wit and this film's stylized cynicism may be the best approach to its deviousness and complexity.

    Last year Servillo also played one of the main characters in Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah, where he's an out-and-out Mafia functionary. Gomorrah won Cannes' number-two award (just below the Golden Palm) the Grand Prize, last year, which given Il Divo's Jury Prize prompted declarations of a rebirth of Italian cinema in the making. Non-Italians like Mafia movies; Italians are sick of them, and might have wished for patriotic reasons that their best filmmakers had won applause by turning to some other subject matter. Both these films are cold, detached, and analytical. Maybe they mean Italians are getting serious about their own film industry and want to look the country's ugliest aspects right in the eye. But don't look for hope here. A great cinema requires more humanity than this.

  • Beautiful but perhaps incomprehensible in translation
    by Jeannieg on 15 August 2008

    53 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

    This is a film of two parts - something which a previous comment didn't really make clear - we see the events of Italy during Andreotti's reign in the first half from Andreoti's point of view: then in the second half we see the same events again from (depending on your perspective) either a more dispassionate or a more disparaging observation.

    As a bit of cinema it is brilliant (one or two IMO rather silly unslick bits of special FX, just ignore them!) but altogether not to be missed. I doubt that it will translate well, and even for a seasoned appassionato of Italian politics the introduction of characters using (clever) superimposed text was flawed by the overshort screen time which these important notes were allowed.

  • Impossible To Love
    by janiceferrero on 30 September 2009

    34 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

    A film to admire but impossible to love. Not an ounce of humanity to cling on to. Splendidly put together but only with the intellect so, for non Italians a puzzle that seems like a figment of someone's imagination and to be taken as a sort of intellectual metaphor. How can a creature from hell in good terms with the Catholic Church can survive all this years and when I say survive I mean survive from every possible angle. Italians know that is not only true but normal. I'm half Italian so I know what I'm talking about. Andreotti is played by Paolo Servillo in a performance that is part caricature, part faithful portrait, a work of genius and I suspect that the slightly surreal, grotesque undertones, allowed the movie to be made and succeed in the way it did, at least in Italy. I saw it in New York where I was the only spectator in the theater. I can't wait to see where director Sorrentino will take us next.

  • Great portrait
    by ntulini-1 on 9 January 2009

    29 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

    This movie puts on screen what all Italians know since decades: directly or indirectly Andreotti is behind all major events happened in Italy in the last 45 years. This is what we know, as we all knew that virtually all politicians at all level were (and are) robbing the public funds and make private deals with business men.

    The movie shows exactly this: we know it but we do not have the evidences.

    Sorrentino tries to bridge this gap by putting together a lot of informations that make a pretty clear scenario, but without evidences. The result is a portrait of a divinity: you know that is there, you know that everything happens because of his will, but on earth everything happens by chance so that the fact that Andreotti is the mastermind of everything becomes a matter of divine faith.

    The strength of the movie rests on the capacity to describe a personality that is so powerful that does not need to speak, does not need to go on TV, he is able to make things happen in a way that only Andreotti knows. Andreotti is above the politics, above the Church, above finance, above mafia, he is depicted as a power that stands on its own, someone who uses all the different leverages to rule.

    Andreotti got it away with his trials and only Andreotti knows how. For a man of his power, it was the least you could expect.

    At the end, Italians have to acknowledge that in the 20th century Italy was ruled by the King (shortly), Mussolini and Andreotti. But if you remember the Glossary shown at the beginning of the movie, through the Loggia P2, Sorrentino suggests that Berlusconi could be the person in charge to continue the job. Whether this is the will of Andreotti or not is a matter of faith.

  • An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life
    by Max_cinefilo89 on 6 January 2009

    26 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

    What does the title Il Divo mean? Well, it comes from "Divo Giulio", the Italian translation of "Divus Iulius", a Latin expression used to describe Julius Caesar. "Divo" translates as "divine", and the term was employed in regards to Caesar's outstanding power as well as his alleged otherworldly ancestry (the founder of his family, the Gens Iulia, was Aeneas, son of Venus). But of course, that has nothing to do with Paolo Sorrentino's masterpiece: the title refers to another Giulio, who has also been called "Divo" because of his considerable influence and longevity (he was 89 when the film was released). That man is Giulio Andreotti, largely considered the most important political figure in 20th century Italy.

    Although the unabridged subtitle of the Italian version reads "The extraordinary life of Giulio Andreotti", it doesn't chronicle all of the famed politician's life. Instead, it focuses on the most important period concerning his career: from 1978 to the early '90s. 1978 is, of course, when Aldo Moro, a member of the right-wing party Democrazia Cristiana just like Andreotti (Toni Servillo), was kidnapped and later executed by the Red Brigades. Andreotti shows no sign of emotion when he learns of the event, as usual: he has always been a quiet, secretive man. All that matters to him is the significant amount of power he gains over the years. As he points out when asked why he doesn't talk to God when he goes to church, "priests vote, God doesn't". Nevertheless, he certainly enjoys a little help from above when he is accused of various illegal activities, working with the Mafia and ordering assassinations being the most serious ones (let's not forget some conspiracy theorists believe he contributed to Moro's death, a conjecture that is dealt with in the film).

    Sorrentino obviously put a lot of research into his work, and the opening title cards, which explain the movie's context, are his way of making sure viewers don't find his effort too confusing. It clearly paid off, since the picture walked away with the Jury Prize at the 2008 Cannes Festival, silencing rumors about it being "too Italian". Predictably, the real Andreotti wasn't too impressed (word has it he even considered taking legal action against the filmmakers at one point). He obviously couldn't admit what happened on screen was true, so he made the following statement: "I don't agree with Sorrentino's portrayal of me, but I understand he had to make certain dramatic choices to make it interesting; my real life is actually quite boring". He has a point: there's a certain operatic grandeur to the scenes of the "Divo" walking around in government buildings and talking with his collaborators, a bit like in The Godfather. This gives the picture the greatness of a Greek tragedy, combined with the fiery spirit of politically charged movies like, say, Oliver Stone's body of work.

    The Stone comparison isn't accidental, since he directed Nixon, which, much like Il Divo, depended hugely on its leading man. Stone had Anthony Hopkins, while Sorrentino has his Robert De Niro, namely the superb Servillo, whose transformation isn't a mere make-up job (to see what he really looks like, one ought to check out the equally magnificent Gomorra): the Neapolitan actor doesn't just play Andreotti, he becomes him. It's a performance that gets past mimicry or impersonation - it's Andreotti as a person, not a movie character.

    So, the concerned party's opinion aside, everything speaks in favor of this ambitious, thought-provoking, stunning opus. In one word, to keep in with the complete title: extraordinary.

  • Sympathy for the Devil
    by furex ( on 30 January 2009

    22 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

    Andreotti was really recognized guilty of association with Mafia until 1980. This was probably the most important piece of information to be delivered to the audience, but it was instead concealed with legalese in a small blurb of rolling text among the end titles, where it's easy to understand just the opposite.

    There's an unspoken agreement in the Italian medias, for this truth must not really be spoken or printed. We must all go on pretending Andreotti was acquitted of all charges because he was innocent. His lawyer, the one who lost the appeal, went on to lie and everybody in the press and TVs pretended to believe her. Now she's a politician herself. Go figure uh?

    Paolo Sorrentino, despite trying to be oh-so-courageous, can't manage to state it in a simple and understandable way.

    The screenplay is in itself a little messy. While in a sense it tries (and succeeds) in conveying the intricacies and complexities of politics through artistic devices, and to point out how blurred is the line which separates the underlying blunt truths from the soft words of the lies which the public must be lullabied into - the final outcome is that even I had some trouble to make all the facts and faces overlap with their real-life counterparts. And that believing I have a fair (though certainly far from complete) understanding of some of the basic facts that underpin the rise and fall of one of Italy's most controversial and powerful figure in all of my country's recent history.

    I can only wonder what insights the unsuspecting audience may have gained from this viewing. And with the great deal of time the film spends to describe in detail all the quirks that make this otherwise alien figure all so human, eventually the effect may turn out to be sympathy for the devil.

    The task was certainly not an easy one, but the outcome is a thorough disappointment.

  • More than a mystery
    by alexmccourt on 17 November 2009

    15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

    I want to see this again, to help me decide if it really was as good as I thought it was the first time round. Whod've thought that a film about a seemingly unprepossessing little Italian politician, Giulio Andreotti, could be so damn entertaining.

    The movie revolves around how extraordinary this man was. However, the mystery - did he or didn't he arrange all those assassinations, was he or wasn't he involved with those nasty Mafia people - was the main driver for the story. A film's plot is always the main enjoyment for me - which is why I detest those smartass reviewers who think it's OK to give the game away - and this one got a big leg up from the true -life storyline. The answer to the mystery is probably given in one seconds-long soundbite somewhere near the end of the film. I say probably because Mr Andreotti spends a fair bit of time in solo self justification and I was never sure if any of his monologues had elements of truth in them.

    As a piece of film making, this movie is dark, elegant and strange, as befits the subject matter. The acting performances are excellent, particularly Tony Servillo as the said Mr Andreotti. Overall, splendido.

  • Elio Petri lives
    by fomafomic on 18 November 2008

    16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

    This is a great movie about a controversial, damned and tragic figure of Italian political world of the last 50 years, touching some of his notorious, never fully clarified trials as landmarks of career. A comedy, realized half as a subjective view of the facts, half as a conventional comedy narrative incorporating other known characters of the period. The deeply narcissistic, subtle and ambiguous nature of Andreotti is outlined with sharpness and sarcasm. You can only speak his "humanity" like Sorvillo does here, if you'd know the subject for many years as Italians do. This wonderfully acted and written great movie speaks to people who lived or know those years close, who have an idea of the period called "first republic", the years of the Cold War and terrorism in Italy. Servillo's acting is worth the film alone, but all the great actors around him are perfect and clearly highly enjoying the project.

    Curiosity: if you have seen The Godfather Pt.3; "Il Divo" Giulio Andreotti is the bad Italian guy close to Vatican, fighting old Corleone Al Pacino... too bad Andreotti would never had been killed or clearly seen taking a position so unconfortable no way. This film is high art compared to that movie, though; this must be said.

  • A masterpiece - for those who know Italian Politics...
    by tgf001 on 4 January 2010

    3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

    This is one of those movies where you need to be up for active entertainment (read: awake and willing to process data and moments quickly). For the very same reason some people give this movie bad reviews as they are upset that the Director (Sorrentino) does not bother with explaining the history of Italian Politics after World War II and the influence Andreotti had on this. If he had to do such for an unknown to understand the story line, the movie would be one hour longer or it would become a pointless exercise and most likely a tiring one for most of the audience. This movie is made for an Italian speaking audience with knowledge of Italian Politics - not a Hollywood blah blah movie.

    Personally, I was a little familiar with the background of Italian Politics but spent a significant amount of time after the first viewing to learn more about entities such as the P2 (Porpaganda due) lodge, Gladio (NATO "Stay behind" organisation), The main characters from the Christian Democrat party as well as a few gentlemen from the Island of Sicily. In light of this sin flood of information I watched the movie a second time and was frankly baffled by it's incredible way of telling such a complicated story in such short period of time.

    Speking only a bit Italian but coming from a non English mother tongue country I was able to understand many parts of the movie without subtitles. I am however used to reading subtitles of non-English movies, which might ruin the experience for people who are not used to such due to the speed of dialogues and the general amount of data released during the 110 minute high speed portray of much more than Il Divo Giulio himself - it is about Italy as a country...

    Long story short, if you appreciate Italian way of life, accept that the Mafia is something as part of their society (let it be Sicilian, Calabria or Napolitano), you enjoy style, class, quality, good food and music as well as the fact that things might just not be inside what it says on the tin then this is a movie for you. If you rather look for an easy digestible film after work, do not speak Italian and have no interest in reading subtitles, do not like ambiguity in scenes and do not like to put the movie together in your head afterwards - then this is certainly not a movie for you...

    If you do not know about Italian Politics and want to grasp this movie at first viewing read on the internet about Andreotti, Craxi and "the years of Lead" for 20 minutes before going to the Cinema.


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