Sorrentino denies Andreotti the privilege of silence, resisting the sheen of sophistication it exudes. By Louis Rogers

Giulio Andreotti, seven-time Italian prime minister and subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s biopic Il Divo, has a peculiar habit. When he gets to the end of a mystery novel, he tears out the final page on which the killer is revealed, preferring the suspension of intrigue to the dead end of resolution. In the context of this bookish anecdote, you might notice how wordy Il Divo is. It begins with a “glossary” defining several Italian political factions and terms, as well as an epigraph; then, we are launched into a film in which titles that denote times and places and identify characters – plus their nicknames and allegiances – spin and slide relentlessly across the screen.

Andreotti was a criminal politician who thrived off things being left unsaid. His world is envisioned here as one of knowing looks and small, significant gestures, like the kiss used to greet a Mafia capo. Sorrentino denies Andreotti the privilege of this silence, and resists the sheen of sophistication – as if to speak the unspoken would above all be tasteless – that it exudes. Instead, he fills the screen with more words – names, details, quotations – than the uninitiated can really take in on a first viewing. Crucially, this text is part of Sorrentino’s bombastic style, animated and sleek as it inverts alongside rotating shots, or, with dark irony, captions a shot of an exploding car with the name of the magistrate inside it. The words taunt Andreotti with their stylish excess.

This remains a mysterious film – Sorrentino does not speculate on the details of the many crimes that remain incompletely solved. But in spite of the sensibility of its mercurially, deliberately unvoluble subject, it presents us with the dozens, even hundreds, of indicting pages that he would rather be torn away.


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