Director Paolo Sorrentino; Release date: 20 March
This is an Italian film about an Italian politician, Giulio Andreotti, and as such risks travelling badly - which would be a shame.
There can't be many politicians left in Europe like Andreotti, the star (il divo) of this film and the dominant figure in politics for nearly six decades. He first became a government minister in 1945, a position he held 25 times, as well as being prime minister of no less than seven governments. You name a world figure - he has met them: Eisenhower, Nixon, Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, Mother Teresa.
He has also seen off all his opponents. He is very much the "last man standing" of the Christian Democrat regime which ruled Italy for 50 years. We see some of his opponents, most of whom had once been his allies, come to a violent death. For example, corrupt banker Roberto Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London, another one, Michele Sindona, was poisoned in jail, fellow Christian Democrat Aldo Moro was killed by the Red Brigades, and General Dalla Chiesa, sent to Sicily to fight the Mafia, ended up killed by them, and so on.
Not for nothing is one of Andreotti's nicknames "Beelzebub". He has been a Cold War warrior for much of his life, very much the Vatican's representative in government, and the film shows him in shadow most of the time. In a stand-out performance Toni Servillo veers away from a caricature, and plays Andreotti as an almost immobile figure, who slithers rather than walks, twiddles his thumbs rather than gesticulates, and speaks in a quiet monotone rather than a loud voice.
How could such a man, who defines himself as having "not much imagination" be so dominant? The fascinating thing is that the film doesn't really show us. The camera swirls around him energetically, the music booms out, but Andreotti's waxen features hardly ever change. He is power personified: dangerous but impenetrable. He is intensely lonely, but we feel neither sympathy nor hostility. In many ways director Paolo Sorrentino wants to show us "the banality of evil", the mother lode of power in front of which all ruthless careerists will bend their knees.
Sadly Andreotti is still starring in his real-life film. Aged 90, he is a life senator in the Italian parliament, even though he has been convicted of having an organic relationship with the Mafia up until 1980. How could he get away with that? At the end of the day politicians make the laws - often with their own interests in mind.