The Blood of the Vanquished

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Rome International Film Festival

ROME -- Michele Soavi’s misguided and puerile “The Blood of the Vanquished” (“Il Sangue dei Vinti”) is indicative of Italy’s current politics as well as the country’s inability to still hold a lucid discussion on its own civil war during World War II. The film is based on the controversial book by journalist Giampaolo Pansa, who purported that not all resistance fighters were good and not all fascists were bad.

Unable to tackle such complexities, Soavi treats war like a game as he ping-pongs between the violence of the fascists and the partisans in a tit-for-tat manner. He would have viewers weep as much for the former as for the latter but it’s hard to imagine the audiences that would do so.

Francesco Dogliani (Michele Placido) is a police officer who refuses to take a political stance in 1943, obsessively investigating the murder of a prostitute (Barbora Bobulova) as his brother (Alessandro Preziosi) and sister (Alina Nedelea) enlist as fighters for opposing factions. Coincidences abound as Dogliani stumbles his way first through the bombings of Rome then the northern Italian countryside where characters always show up in the right place at the right time in the midst of the chaos.

There are more holes in the story than bullets fired. Particularly risible scenes are of Francesco and the prostitute’s sister (Bobulova, in a dual role) trotting away to the safety of an abandoned but fortuitously illuminated house as two dozen fascists inexplicably cannot catch up to them; or when a German commander, to show how much a lowlife he is, does not have the good manners to wipe beans from his chin as he speaks with his mouth full.

Production values are weak: Fake snow swirls frantically on a windless day. A map of Italy is sprayed with gunfire, neatly tearing it in half in case we were missing the point. But the lack of artistry is secondary to the film’s reprehensible morality. As it ends sentimentalizing over a fascist death, “Il Sangue dei Vinti” cursorily dismisses the fundamental truth that instigators of brutality are also responsible for the horrors they spawn.

Production companies: Media One Entertainment, RAI Fiction.
Cast: Michele Placido, Barbora Bobulova, Alessandro Preziosi, Alina Nedelea, Valerio Binasco, Massimo Pioggio, Stefano Dionisi, Ana Caterina Morariu.
Director: Michele Soavi.
Screenwriter: Massimo Sebastiani, Dardano Sacchetti.
Based on the book by: Giampaolo Pansa.
Producer: Alessandro Fracassi.
Director of photography: Gianni Mammolotti.
Production designer: Andrea Crisanti.
Costume designer: Sergio Ballo.
Editor: Anna Napoli.
No rating, 113 minutes.

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