Bellocchio's priorities are electrically clear. Sensation, sensation, sensation. The effect is a rare kind of moviegoing chaos. Are we to laugh, cry, scratch our temples, or grab our dates? In the spirit of the movie, do them all at once.
Her story is one of endurance and martyrdom, and Bellocchio treats her with grave courtesy, focussing on her battered face as she is subjected to years of beatings in the asylum, and on her drive to escape.
The film is beautifully well-mounted. The locations, the sets, the costumes, everything conspire to re-create the Rome of that time. It provides a counterpoint to the usual caricature of Mussolini.
Bellocchio's bigger-than-life story requires over-the-top performances, which are provided by Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Ida and Filippo Timi as the young Mussolini and, later, his grown son.
Bellocchio tells the film's historical story in an electrifying fashion, mixing in newsreel footage, on-screen slogans and Futurist art, a bit of thunder and lightning and Carlo Crivelli's boom-boom score.
An intense and intriguing, if at times uneven, film with Italian director Marco Bellocchio wringing every drop of emotion out of his actors and his audience before it is over.