Vincere (Win) (2009)






Director:     Marco Bellocchio.

Starring:    Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Ida Dalser),  Filippo Timi (Benito Mussolini / Benito Albino adulto),  Fausto Russo Alesi (Riccardo Paicher),  Michela Cescon (Rachele Mussolini),  Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (Pietro Fedele),  Corrado Invernizzi (Dottor Cappelletti),   Paolo Pierobon (Giulio Bernardi),  Bruno Cariello (Giudice),  Francesca Picozza (Adelina Dalser),  Simona Nobili (Madre Superiora),  Vanessa Scalera (Suora Misericordiosa),  Giovanna Mori (Tedesca),  Patrizia Bettini (Cantante),  Silvia Ferretti (Scarpette rosse),  Corinne Castelli (Lacrime).

In Italian with English subtitles.

Mussolini’s mistress Ida Dalser and their son Albino


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Mussolini, a member of the Socialist Party, speaks to a crowd of socialists.  He says he dares God to strike him dead within five minutes.  The five minutes pass and Mussolini says that this is proof that God does not exist.  This causes quite an uproar in the room.  A pretty girl named Ida Dalser in the crowd watches him intently. 

Milano, 1914.  A fashion show takes place in a store belonging to Ida.  Outside soldiers are ready to confront socialist demonstrators. 

Trento, 1907.  A group of socialists is chased down the street by police on horseback.  Several policemen chase Mussolini down the street.  He grabs the woman Ida and asks her to help him escape from the police.  She stands there with him. 

Milano, 1914.  Ida sees Mussolini leading a demonstration and shouting at the top of his lungs.  She runs out and kisses Mussolini. 

Trento, 1907.  Ida starts kissing Mussolini again and the socialist starts kissing her back. 

Milano, 1914.  At night Ida hears her doorbell ring.   She gets up to see who it is.  It's Mussolini.  He grabs her and they start kissing again.  He takes off her night gown (brief nudity).  They head over to the bed and have sex. 

Sarajevo.  The Arch-Duke of the Austria-Hungary Empire is killed by an assassin.  World War I begins. 

Mussolini leaves the apartment and the woman chases after him saying that she just has to see him again.  Mussolini just says:  "Sure."  Ida later goes to socialist headquarters to see Mussolini.  She can hear his loud voice booming out.  The men are arguing with each other.  The dominant idea is that the socialists will remain neutral in the coming war.  Mussolini argues that the party and Italy must not remain neutral.  He argues against the vast majority of the socialists and the woman is just eating it all up. 

Ida waits for Mussolini in the dark hallway.  He comes out and they walk together.  He says as a kid he wanted to be a musician or an author, but he knew he would never be really great in these field.  He says he is also scared of time passing him by.  Ida says that as the editor of Avanti, he should be happy.  But Mussolini wants to be a great man, someone who sticks out from the common mediocrity.  He also says that he resigned from Avanti because they asked him to take a leave of absence even though he had tripled circulation.  He goes on to say that he will establish his own paper:  Il Popolo d'Italia

Mussolini's "wife" comes to see a book burning her husband is engaged in.  She sees him kissing a strange woman (Ida) and leaves. 

Mussolini comes to Ida's apartment and calls for her:  "Ida."  He finds her laying nude on her bed.  (brief nudity) She gets up and says that she has sold everything:  the apartment, the shop, the furniture, the jewelry.  She did it so he could establish his newspaper.  She has the cash piled up on a table and Ida tells him to take it.  He says no and she says yes.  She did it, she says, because she loves him.  He then says it will be a loan and grabs a piece of paper and writes out that Ida Dalser has lent him the money and then he signs it.  She asks Benito to tell her he loves her just once.  He does so and she starts kissing him again. 

Mussolini is involved in a fencing duel and is wounded on his right forearm.  Ida  tells Benito that she is pregnant.  They kiss.  A man working on Mussolini's newspaper re-enacts the duel for the other workers.  Ida goes in to see Mussolini.  The worker sees Mussolini's wife Rachel coming to the newspaper office and he rushes in to grab Ida to get her out of the way.  Ida asks:  "Who's she?"  Ida fights to stay in the room, so the man has to force her out.  She does, however, get to see Benito with his wife and son.  Ida is jealous and angry at what she sees.

The headline for Mussolini's paper is:  "Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary".  Benito and Ida go to a silent movie.  They see newsreel footage of the war and Mussolini shouts out:  "Long live Italy!  Long live the war!"  Other patrons shout out for peace.  Soon the two sides start pushing each other. 

Soon artillery shells start falling on the city.  People are panicking, but Ida just keeps pushing her baby stroller.  She watches a silent movie while she fawns over her child. 

Now her child is around two years of age.  A newsboy shouts out:  "Mussolini wounded on the Carso Plateau."  Ida grabs a paper.  (The Karst Plateau is in Slovenia, east of northeast Italy.)

Ida goes to see Mussolini in the hospital.  Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy (1900-1946), pays a visit to the hospital to see Mussolini.  His "wife" is already nursing him and soon the two women get into a fight.  They have to be pulled apart.  Ida, upset, leaves the hospital.  Rachel cries and Benito tells her:  "You're my woman." 

Futurist Expo, 1917.  Mussolini goes to see the exhibition and is welcomed as a war hero of the Battle of Doberḍ (August 1916 between Italian and Austria-Hungarian army on the westernmost edge of the Kras plateau).  Ida shows up at the exhibition and when Mussolini sees her, she pulls up her dress so she can show him she is completely naked below. (brief partial nudity)  He takes her into another room and locks the door.  She tells him that she is ready to forgive him and he can do whatever he wants, but always be with her.  They kiss.  He then lets himself out of the room.  Ida tries to hold onto him and he shouts at her to let go of him.  She does and Mussolini walks out of the exhibition.

Russian Revolution of October 1917.  From the street, Ida with her son yells up to Mussolini calling him a thief.  She goes on to say that he has abandoned her and his son and that she has written to a number of important people in Italy to punish Mussolini.  Benito grabs a pistol and is going to shoot her, when his colleagues take the pistol away from him.  The police take her away.  (She appears in a hospital gown.) 

World War I is over and celebrating crowds march in the streets. 

Ministry of Internal Affairs, February 13, 1920.  Ida Dalser and her son, Benito Albino Mussolini, have been taken to her sister Adele Paicher's home.  There she is under strict surveillance.  Her son is much bigger now.  Ida reads in the paper that Mussolini and his supporters have taken office.  She goes to the movies and there she sees newsreel footage of a much different looking Mussolini than the one she knew.  He is heavier and bald. 

Ida is pregnant again.  She comes home and tells her brother-in-law that she saw Mussolini on the movie screen.  He tells Ida to find another man.  She shoots back:  "Either him or no one."  She also says at school they call her son a bastard and his teacher hates him.  The brother-in-law tells her that if she keeps this up, she will lose her son.  He says that Magistrate Giulio Bernardi wants the boy taken care of by someone else than Ida.  She calls the magistrate:  "The snake!"  He tells Ida to calm down because now all the judges are becoming fascists.  Ida, however, has no intentions of calming down.  She says she is his wife and the mother of his first-born son. 

There is more newsreel footage of Mussolini.  In the paper there is a picture of him with his family of three children and his wife at the beach.  More pictures are shown of Ida in a hospital gown. 

Ida thinks back upon the time she got married to Benito. 

Ida looks at one of the headlines.  "Minister Fedele in Trent today."  She start walking to town.  She gets to the place where Fedele is and acts as if she is going to attack him.  Four men grab her and drag her away.  She is put in the back of a car and a man starts hitting her in the face. 

The doctors at the asylum think that Ida is crazy.  Her face has dried blood on it.  They mention she may have "paranoia syndrome".  When she fully wakes up she asks where is she?  She is in the hospital at Pergine.  Ida says she's in the madhouse.  She says she has to go home because her son is waiting for her.  Ida also mentions that she is Mussolini's wife and her son is the first son of Mussolini. 

At home the dog starts barking.  Representatives of the king's magistrate have come to search the house where Ida was staying.  They grab Ida's son and put him in the car.  The sister and brother-in-law try to stop them, but they can't.  Sister tells her husband not to worry.  Ida hid the birth certificate papers they are looking for. 

Bernardi is put in a home run by nuns.  He is the only one there because school is over and the students have gone home. 

Ida asks one of the sisters to mail  a great many letters for her.  She says that Mussolini is just testing her.  Once she passes the tests of loyalty, he will present her to Italy as his lawful wife.  The sister says she can't help Ida, because if she loses her job, she starves.  So when the gate is opened Ida rushes through.  She climbs a high set of bars and yells to some boys outside that she is the wife of Mussolini; she is incarcerated in this madhouse; and she wants the boys to notify the authorities.  The boys just start singing a fascist son and giving the fascist salute.  So one by one Ida throws her letters in the direction of the boys. 

Venice, San Clemente Madhouse.  For all the commotion she created, the nuns are transferring Ida to Division 6.  One of the psychiatrists has her sent for observation instead. 

Ida has more freedom now.  She and the others are allowed outside

Sir Bernardi comes to see Lady Dalser.  He is the one that Ida blames for all her recent problems.  Bernardi has a letter from her son.  Ida grabs the letter from Bernardi and looks it over.  She says that this letter has been dictated.  The psychiatrist tells Ida that the magistrate in Trent has named Bernardi as her son's custodian.  Ida starts calling Bernardi:  "Thief!"   The psychiatrist tries to talk to Ida, but she just goes to her room and slams the door behind her. 

At night on the grounds the psychiatrist tells Ida that she is going at this all wrong.  Her manner, her method, her timing are just not right.  She always just wants to attack and shout out her truth. She must become an actor.  Right now the role she is playing is "a rebel in constant agitation".  She should act like a normal woman:  obedient, remissive, taciturn.  She should be "the Fascist woman who knows her place is in the home."  He goes on to say that he wants to release her.  He can't release her right now, because it's too dangerous.  She should read Pascoli, because Mother Superior really likes his work. 

The women are shown a Charley Chaplain movie.  Ida really cries because it's a story where a little boy is taken from Charley and finally Charley reunites with his boy. 

The fascists come for her.  They place her in a straight jacket and take her to a hospital in Pergine.  There she is strapped to a bed.   A group composed of hospital staff asks her a lot of everyday questions.  She answers all those questions, including the one about the date:  "January 18, 1927."  She goes on with her story and the doctor says that there is no documentation that she ever married Mussolini.  He advises her to deny that she is the wife of Mussolini for it is the only way she can avoid interdiction.  She asks if she did this, would she be released?  The answer is not right away. So she just decides to throw a fit.

"Ida Dalser was placed under judicial interdict for mental illness.  His Excellency Bernardi was given custody."

 Ida has papers all around her with writing on them.  Has she written out her side of the story? 

The staff come to Ida's boy and give him a present.  Ida take out of her cell some of the pages and throws them out onto the lawn when it is snowing. 

The boy Benito topples over the bust of Mussolini.  Then he hides under his bed.  The nuns come rushing in and call for Benito Dalser, but Benito shouts that his name is not Dalser, but Mussolini. 

Ida kneels in front of the sitting Mother Superior and begs to see her son.  Mother Superior tells her to think about the suffering of the Madonna when Jesus was crucified.  Ida gets up and walks away.  Inmate Silvia climbs up and over a garden wall and runs away. 

Villa Torlonia, residence of Il Duce.  Rachele attends to her chickens.  Ida helps one of the nuns feed their chickens. 

Benito is now a young man.  He listens with the other students to a speech by his biological father, Il Duce, who speaks of building a powerful Italian navy to bring greatness back to Italy.  After the speech is over, Benito's fellow students ask him to imitate Il Duce's speech, which is very grandiose.  He does it to a thrilled group of students, but the display also catches the attention of some fascists. 

While watching a film, Benito gives a letter to a man sitting next to him to give to his mother.  The man is his uncle Ricardo.  Ricardo man takes the letter. 

One of the nuns hands the letter to Ida, but tells her not to let anyone else see it. In the letter Benito says that he is well.  He hopes for the day when he can embrace his mother, the one he has been dreaming about for so long.  The nun that brought her the letter takes off her nun's habit and hands it over to Ida.  She puts it on and starts walking out of the building.  She even has a set of keys she got from the nun.  She runs outside and climbs over the gate and away she goes.  She runs and runs through the pouring rain.  She goes back to her sister's house.  But there the house is full of fascists just waiting for her.  Ida runs upstairs and jumps on the bed where her sister is laying.  She asks sister where is her son, but she either doesn't know or can't tell. 

The police commissioner comes into the room and Ida asks him where is her son?  He is La Spezia at a radiotelephonic school.  Benito is now a sailor.  The commissioner tells her that  he phoned Benito so that he could return in time to see his mother.  Ida asks the commissioner to send her back to San Clemente, but not to Pergine. 

The police commissioner is informed that nearly the entire town is waiting outside to see Ida.  Ida is surrounded by policemen and they push through the crowd.  One woman shouts:  "Be merciful!  Free her!"  Another woman gives a big embrace and Ida tells her:  "Don't forget me!"  A young girl gives Ida some flowers.  They put Ida in a car, but the people make it hard for the car to move forward.  People even run beside the car as it picks up speed. 

Benito is in a madhouse now.  He still imitates Il Duce's way of delivering a speech. 

World War II starts.  Italy suffers greatly from the war. 

Ida gets to see her son.  A bust of Mussolini is crushed by a huge vice. 

"Ida Dalser died on December 3, 1937, from cerebral hemorrhage.  She was buried in a common grave.  Her marriage certificate to Mussolini has never been found.  Benito Albino died at 26 in a psychiatric hospital.  Like his mother, he was buried in a common grave.  On April 25, 1945, Italy was liberated from Fascism. On April 28, 1945, Mussolini was executed by the partisans." 


Good movie.  It shines more light on the bad character of Benito Mussolini, even when he was young and a socialist.  He takes advantage of a young woman's obsession over him.  The woman was so obsessed with him that she almost sold all her belongings to get the money so Benito could establish his own newspaper.  He took the money with the knowledge that it would live the woman very poor.  Benito also gets the woman pregnant and then abandons her and his child to find their way through life alone.  Benito, once a socialist, was an opportunist primary interested in his own fame.  How else could a socialist turn himself into a fascist?  The situation in which Ida Dalser finds herself is a pitiable one.  At no time did Benito try to help his wife and first male child.  In fact, he tried to keep her quiet.  He was a real bum and a bastard.  It's a sad story, so be prepared. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  



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