Vincere (Win) is an Italian film that tells the story of Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who was the first wife of Mussolini (Filippo Timi) and who bore him a son. During the First World War, she became estranged from Mussolini, and he married another woman. After he rose to power, Mussolini had to hide the embarrassing fact that he was married to two women. He sought to discredit Dalser and to destroy any evidence of their marriage. He had their son taken away from her, and he had her placed in an asylum. She died in 1937.

The film largely depicts Dalser’s life in mental hospitals and asylums, and the brutality and indifference she experiences in these places. Throughout she struggles valiantly, but futilely, to have herself recognized as Mussolini’s wife, and to have her son recognized as Mussolini’s son. I have to admit, I found the film hard to follow at times. It doesn’t always make clear what is happening, and it jumps back and forth in time. Also, I found it a bit hard to sympathize with someone who was essentially a fascist. However, I was impressed by the acting. Both Mezzogiorno and Timi turn in very strong performances.

Strange to say, the film leaves out two historical details that are very interesting. At one point, Dalser accused Mussolini of being a traitor, claiming that he had taken money from the French government to agitate for Italy’s entry into the First World War. (In the film, Dalser is portrayed as remaining loyal to Mussolini in spite of everything.) And although the film mentions that Dalser’s son, Benito, who claimed Mussolini as his father, died in an asylum at the age of 26, it doesn’t show that his doctors had given him coma-inducing drugs.

Still, at a time when fascism has undergone a revival in Italy, it’s good to see an Italian film that portrays Mussolini as a scumbag.

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