Il Divo

Il Divo is a biopic that confounds every expectation of the genre.

A portrait of seven-time Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, Paolo Sorrentino’s spectacular film brings a sinisterly bloodless character to eye-popping life, and illuminates the insidiously obscure world surrounding him.

Andreotti is played by the Neapolitan theatre actor Toni Servillo, who is versed in the incisive caricatures of Molière.

His Andreotti is reserved, drab and more than a little vampiric: a quietly calculating string-puller who seems impervious to the usual limits of political, or mortal, life. 

Andreotti operates from the upper echelons of the Italian establishment – an intricate network of politicians, mafiosi, police, and journalists – at a sanitised distance from the bloody violence that keeps its wheels moving.

Sorrentino appropriately gives us a bird’s eye view of this world, his camera swooping and gliding in (genuinely) dizzying spectacle to capture the engulfing reach of the power it wields, and echoing the divine perspective suggested by the film’s title. 

Sorrentino’s dazzling cinematics make this a true story unusually unbothered by the conventional markers of factuality.

Il Divo’s entirely distinctive character led the New York Times to use the tellingly paradoxical descriptors “biographical fantasy” and “speculative history”.

Ultimately, Sorrentino’s idiosyncratic approach gives him a vicelike grip on his subject.

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