Little Known Films: Il Divo, the Spectacular Life of Guilio Andreotti (2008) Italy 110 mins

In Rome, at dawn, when everyone is sleeping, one man is awake. That man is Giulio Andreotti, the 41st prime minister of Italy. He's awake because he has to work, write books, move in fashionable circles, and last, but not least, pray. Calm, crafty and inscrutable, Andreotti was synonymous with power in Italy for over four decades. He died in 2013 at the age of 94.

Before The Great Beauty won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, director Paolo Sorrentino and actor Toni Servillo won the 2008 Jury Prize for IL Divo (The God) based on Andreottiʼs colorful life.

This intricate tapestry of a film starts in the beginning of the 1990s when this impassive yet insinuating, ambiguous yet reassuring figure is set to assume his seventh mandate as prime minister without arrogance and without humility. Approaching seventy, Andreotti is a gerontocrat who, with all the attributes of God, is afraid of no one. He doesnʼt know the meaning of awe since he is accustomed only to seeing it stamped on the faces of his interlocutors. For him, satisfaction is power, with which he has a symbiotic relationship. He emerges unscathed from everything: electoral battles, terrorist massacres, slanderous accusations until the strongest counter power in Italy, the Mafia, declares war on him. Then things change. Or do they?

Part thriller, part analysis of democratic politics, and part introduction to the labyrinthine workings of Italian governance, this elegant and intelligent picture is as visually gripping and intriguing as its compelling main character. As Andreotti, Servillo is at the heart of the film. He is a corpse tilted upright, with pallor and dress suitable for viewing in an open casket. His hunched shoulders, toad-like neck, and constricted pigeon toed gait with tiny geisha steps give the impression he is walking on casters.

It is said that Andreotti, when watching the film, momentarily lost his temper. After admitting the film was aesthetically remarkable, he said the suggestion he was somehow responsible for many of the “illustrious corpses” of the First Republic was ludicrous. Ludicrous or not, we can be sure of one thing, it is difficult to tarnish Andreotti, a man who knew the ways of the world better than any one of us. IL Divo now resides at the Palisades library.