If veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s wild and woolly version can be believed, before he became the Fascist clown “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi) was a hunk. He also preached socialism and pacifism, and on his way to seducing the nation, he won the heart of Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who gave him all her love and money.
In return, he gave her a child, married her (or so it’s alleged), and betrayed her along with everyone else, putting her in a madhouse when she squawked and the boy (played as an adult also by Filippo Timi) in a boarding school. Is Ida a model of female resolution or just a dupe? Is Bellocchio even interested?
Instead, his usual madcap stylization prevails: archival footage, characters watching archival footage in movie theaters, silent-movie-style title cards, Futurist-like animations of marching soldiers and tiny biplanes. Plus some of the most stunning images of the year. History as nightmare indeed.