2008 was a very good year to be at the Cannes Film Festival. Among many excellent films, such as Waltz With Bashir; Synecdoche, New York; A Christmas Tale; and Adoration, Il Divo stands out. It’s about a real person, his actual life, told with speed, cunning and a measured rawness that made me think of Coppola’s The Godfather, but with better camera work. Il Divo is a rare film, exciting, visionary, all of a piece, a world unto itself and true to that world.
Based on the life of Giulio Andreotti, one of the most powerful politicians in post-war Italy, Il Divo is a movie of sharp, often stunning contrasts. Andreotti, played with mesmerizing, uncanny understatement by Toni Servillo, is the calm eye of the storm, while death, destruction and endless palace intrigue whirl around him. His strange body shape, his odd gestures, his sudden, though calculated movements, create an enigma for the audience, while the movie translates that enigma into a series of images and sound without resolution. Each shot appears hand picked, loaded, pregnant with some hidden meaning. Paced by a master, the film pushes us, pulls us, slows us down and kicks us into gear, almost against our will. It’s ordered chaos, much as life in Italian politics must have been with Andreotti at the heart of things, and the Mafia, the Vatican, the left and the right all vying for finite seats at the table.
This is a special film, one that takes chances and delivers.
Trailer for Il Divo