ITALY: To Win (Vincere, 2009)

Vincere: A Love Story?

by Emily Paglicci

by Emily Paglicci

Within this video essay, you can hear prominent Italian director Marco Bellocchio describe his reasoning for depicting the story of Ida Dalser and Benito Mussolini on screen in his 2009 film Vincere. He describes it as a widely unknown “love story” (Iitaly). While Dalser may have loved Mussolini, it was definitely not a love story. Simply put, a white, powerful man abused his lover and son for years to maintain a reputation.

Bellocchio’s claim that their relationships a love story is inherently flawed. Mussolini used several known domestic violence tactics to control Dalser. Evidence of emotional abuse, physical violence, isolation tactics, and minimizing are all evident within the film (The Hotline). Some examples of emotional abuse include humiliating Dalser. She is often physically removed by Mussolini’s followers against her will and to her own embarrassment, as she is being tossed to the side. He also makes Dalser appear crazy by refusing to acknowledge the claim that they are married. Potential physical violence against her is seen when Mussolini pulls a gun on her and theiron. The only reason he did not shoot her, as seen in the film, is because his friends stop him. Furthermore, isolation tactics are also seen, on screen, when Mussolini forces Dalser and her son to move out into the country with her sister. She is prevented from leaving by bodyguards sent by Mussolini. Mussolini also uses minimization to control Dalser; he hides the abuse from the world by sending her away therefore minimizing the impact on everyone else. He also denies their marriage ever occurred, portraying her as crazy for continually insisting that it did. One may claim that Mussolini’s intense focus on Dalser shows that he cares about her but his focus was on removing her from his life and from history. That is not love.

The idea that domestic violence is unacceptable seems pretty obvious, however, across the world, “one third or more of men say it can be acceptable for a husband to ‘beat his wife’” and “one-third or more of women agree that a husband who beats his wife may be justified, at least some of the time” (NPR 2015). Domestic violence can cause many physical, emotional, and mental effects and even impact children who witness the abuse. Some physical effects include chronic fatigue, involuntary shaking, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Mental consequences include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety (Women’s Health 2018). Bellocchio, throughout the second half of the film, portrays Dalser as perpetually tired as she has visible dark circles under her eyes. Emotional effects, depicted by Dalser in the film, include hopelessness, inability to trust, and discouragement about the future (Joyful Heart Foundation). This is best seen when Dalser is attempting to send her letters and no one will help her. She realizes in this moment that she may never see her son again. Again, this shows that the story of Mussolini and Dalser is not one of love but of abuse.

Bellocchio describing this film as a portrayal of a love story allows this abusive narrative to continue. His description tells people that this type of cruelty denotes love, when it does not. This film depicts a story of abuse by one of the world’s most famous dictators. He, like many abusers, continuously battered and controlled Dalser. Mussolini refused to acknowledge their marriage in an attempt to make people forget about her, although she never stopped claiming it occurred. Dalser continuously insisted that “her life and her truth be heard and acknowledged” and this idea of always speaking your truth would become a footpath for global movements against abuse and for women’s rights (Hollywood Reporter & Huffington Post).

Works Cited

One Reply to “ITALY: To Win (Vincere, 2009)”

  1. This is a really thoughtful video essay! It is interesting to see the disparity between the categorization of the film as a love story and a general historical film. You bring up convincing arguments as to why we should reconsider Bellocchio’s described genre of his film.

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