Featured as the Italian Spotlight, Il Divo is a biographical film on Giulio Andreotti, an Italian politician of the Democrazia Cristian (Christian Democrat Party) who first joined Parliament in 1946, has served in different positions over the years, and in 1991 became (and still remains) a tenured Senator for Life. After a montage of assassinations involving “politicians, journalists, judges and banks – all connected to the Vatican, the Mafia or Andreotti” over the preceding years, the film opens in 1991 with Andreotti beginning his seventh term as Prime Minister surrounded by a powerful cabinet whose members range from clergy to criminal. When asked why he includes such nefarious people, he explains, “Trees need manure to grow.”
He next plans to be elected President of the Republic, but fails after the murder of one associate with Mafia ties and the defection of another. As a new party takes over the government, members of Democrazia Cristian are brought up on many corruption charges, leading to the suicide of many, although the circumstances are suspicious. Andreotti is able to remain above the fray as he always has before, which leads a journalist to state he was “either the most cunning criminal in the country because you never got caught or you’re the most persecuted man in the history of Italy.”
After the arrest of Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore Riina and other associates give up information of which investigators are looking, Andreotti is investigated and charged with the murder of a journalist who claimed Andreotti had ties to the Mafia and the kidnapping of Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who he succeeded. It was known as “The Trial Of The Century.”
Toni Servillo does a masterful job playing the enigmatic character. Even when I was certain about Andreotti’s guilt, the denials were so convincing and well reasoned that they generated doubt about scenes I had just witnessed. Andreotti never admits to the charges, but when he says, “We must love God greatly to understand how necessary evil is for good,” he tips his hand.
This fascinating story is presented in an equally fascinating manner by writer/director Paolo Sorrentino, who makes great use of the medium along with cinematographer Luca Bigazzi. They know when to have the camera stay still and let the events unfurl before them and when to let the camera move and glide through the scene without it feeling forced or showing off. The opening assassination montage sets the bar for what’s to come. Edited by Christiano Travagliolo, it resembles a thrilling music video to match the driving, discotheque song on the soundtrack. There’s a Scorsese influence but unlike many directors who mimic his style only to fail, Sorrentino’s Il Divo has substance to match.