Il Divo e il Diavolo

Toni Servillo in Il Divo, film by Paolo Sorrentino

          Toni Servillo, the exceptional actor of La Grande Bellezza, plays Giulio Andreotti, an emblematic figure of Italian Christian democracy and politics, in Il Divo, a film by the same filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino.

Giulio Andreotti was seven times President of the Council of Ministers, member of the Constituent Assembly of 1946 and then of all the governments of Italy from 1947 to 1992 (NB: eight times Minister of Defence, five times Minister of Foreign Affairs and two times Minister of Fiances), finally Senator for life.

Presumed links with the mafia and the Vatican – which is more in the norm as regards a leader of the Christian Democracy (DC) heir of Alcide de Gasperi -, a responsibility in the death of Aldo Moro kidnapped by the Red Brigades with whom he had refused to negotiate (NB: Moro was a former official like him of the Federation of Italian Catholic Academics FUCI and was Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first government he led in 1972), are highlighted in this dark film work, disturbing, oppressive to the point of claustrophobia due to the physical and mental confinement of the central personality. 

“Belzebuth”, for this was also the nickname of the “Divine” (Divo Giulio like Julius Caesar) who dominated Italian political life for more than forty-five years, was known, besides its supra-natural longevity, for its extreme skill, as attested by the combinazioni of the period under consideration, its obsession with power and also its brutality, that of a “type of unctuousness that frightens“, likely to turn into brutality and vulgarity. Toni Servillo defines his character as “the portrait of a winner about to fall”. 


Giulio Andreotti, Franck Sinatra and Richard Nixon at the White House, 1973 (White House Photo Office)

The politics of the dark years of the Andreotti period were sometimes described as a « strategy of tension ». The latter characterized above all, from the mid-1970s onwards, the period of strong growth of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) led by Enrico Berlinguer, against the backdrop of economic crisis and domestic terrorism (cf. Aldo Moro case in 1978). Giulio Andreotti’s anti-communist line was constant and opposed the « historic compromise » advocated by Berlinguer.  Accused of alleged links with the mafia since the 1980s and convicted for it, the Divine was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2004, the facts having been prescribed.

In La Grande Bellezza, an aging art critic, still endowed with charm but now misanthropic and cynical, embarks on a search for great beauty in a quest of spiritual nature, of which Rome is the setting. He says on the evening of his life, “I was destined for sensitivity, I was destined to become a writer. Giulio Andreotti, who was a compulsive writer, publishing one book a year on average from 1980, especially on his mentor de Gasperi, could never have pronounced this sentence because he was at the opposite of such a personality, being obsessively focused on power. In this First Italian Republic of which he was a major incarnation, Il Divo met Il Diavolo. According to the formula, “Any resemblance to existing characters…”.

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