A film about the life of Silvio Berlusconi.
‘Loro’, meaning ‘Them’ in English, is a film about the infamous Italian president Silvio Berlusconi, covering the period from 2006-2009 that encompasses Berlusconi’s time away from politics and his return to the presidency in 2009. It’s directed by Paolo Sorrentino and those familiar with his work will know not to expect a straightforward narrative journey and this is a typically idiosyncratic piece of work that nonetheless gets at the heart of what makes Berlusconi tick.
For the Italian release the film was split out into two parts, totalling over 3 hours long, but this version which was prepared for audiences in the US and the UK (to name two territories) is a shorter cut at 145 minutes. Sorrentino’s style makes it hard to identify what aspects have been left out but regardless, I found this to be an incredibly compelling watch that attempts to explain the allure of Berlusconi to businessmen, fellow politicians and the scores of young women that attended his infamous ‘bunga bunga’ parties. Interestingly the film doesn’t begin with Berlusconi himself, but instead with a young businessman called Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is involved in small scale trafficking and who utilizes his abilities to bribe local politicians and move himself up the food chain. It’s through Morra that we meet Berlusconi but the narrative is patient in building to his introduction, using the initial runtime to explore the superficiality and excessive lifestyles that Sorrentino previously covered so well in the excellent ‘The Great Beauty’.
When Berlusconi does arrive, he’s played by Sorrentino’s regular ‘go-to’ leading man in Toni Servillo and despite some slightly off putting prosthetics he makes for a captivating lead once again, veering from charismatic to snake oil salesman in an instant. He’s a man who has it all but yet wants more, a man who is not perturbed by the conflict of interests between his business and political careers, nor by his (barely) private life as a well known lothario. He’s a man who manipulates the truth and thinks nothing of it but Sorrentino wisely steps back from making too many parallels with other political developments across the globe. This is very much an Italian story and this comes to the forefront as the film reaches its conclusion and Berlusconi experiences events even he can’t control, such as the tragic L’Aquila earthquakes shortly after his re-election to the presidency.
‘Loro’ is a blistering, messy and always entertaining exploration of life in Italy under one of modern Europe’s most infamous politicians in Silvio Berlusconi, crafted in Sorrentino’s singular vision and I thought it was another superb film from the Italian master.
Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Toni Servillo, Riccardo Scamarcia, Elena Sofia Ricci, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen and Fabrizio Bentivoglio