The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #14 March / April 2015
At the Cinema
Viva La Libertà
by Erik Zidowecki
March / April 2015 | 

You don't need to understand the world of Italian politics to appreciate the film Viva La Libertà (Long Live Freedom). Enrico Oliveri is an experienced politician, working as a senator and party leader of the center-left. Things are not going well, as his party is in decline and will probably be defeated in the upcoming elections, and so the members want to drop him.

Enrico starts suffering from depression and exhaustion, and finally decides to leave for a while, with only a letter to his trusted friend and advisor, Andrea Bottini, of what he has done.

He takes refuge in Paris, France, at the home of his once lover, Danielle. She is now married to a famous film director and has a daughter, Hélène.

The irony is not lost on the fact that it takes a "mad man" to show how crazy the situation has become.

Bottini tells the other members of the party and the media that Enrico is just away for health reasons, and there is nothing wrong, but he is unsure if Enrico will return, so he comes up with a desperate plan. He tracks down Enrico's twin brother, who is a writer, philosopher, and self-medicated former mental health care patient. The plan is to present Oliveri as Enrico, at least until Enrico returns.

This actually goes much better than planned. First, it turns out that the brothers used to fool people all the time as children, pretending to be the other, so Oliveri easily plays the part. However, while Enrico is very somber and sad, Oliveri is very charming, outgoing, and philosophical. He is also very unpredictable, and tends to wander away from important meetings, reciting poetry, and dancing with important political figures. He also likes to start humming a particular tune at odd times.

Meanwhile, Enrico is finding himself becoming revitalized while in hiding as he becomes more involved in Danielle's life and her friends. He bonds with Hélène and watches his brother portraying him back home in Italy.

Oliveri and Bottini, meeting for the first time

Enrico and Oliveri are played by the same actor, Toni Servillo, which works wonderfully as he is able to show both the brothers as being completely unique while still having similar aspects. We wonder what happened that made the two personalities diverge so completely.

While the backdrop of the film is the political scene, most of that is done in an abstract enough way to not only be applicable to politics in other countries but it also doesn't detract from the charm and real message of the film.

Oliveri, in his straightforward while philosophical way, manages to make the people see that the political system itself, as well as the people, are to be blamed for the situation, for they thrive on catastrophes and conflict. Everything is bound up in fear of the other party, in losing position, and in losing faith. His message isn't so much about rising up to defeat an enemy (the opposing parties) but in simply not being bound up in fear.

Oliveri talking to the press after his "return"

The irony is not lost on the fact that it takes a "mad man" to show how crazy the situation has become.

His speeches and easy manner, taking questions from reporters and turning them into insightful and sometimes cryptic monologues, inspire not only his party and its members, but even Bottini. In one touching scene, Bottini even confesses to Oliveri that he would vote for him, and that he actually fears Enrico's return.

But the charade can only go on for so long. Oliveri receives a call from Enrico, thanking him, after which he disappears from the beach house where he is staying with Enrico's wife. Meanwhile, Enrico says his goodbyes to Danielle's family and says it is time he returns. While Bottini searches frantically for Oliveri, we see both brothers as they are travelling, presumably back to where they belong.

Enrico and Danielle, reunited after many years

After spending the night in his car after an exhausting hunt for the lost brother, Bottini returns to the offices, only to find the Senator calmly sitting in office. He is unsure what to think now, since the party is set to win the election. Can it continue on this path with Enrico back in place?

As he leaves the office, he looks back and sees Enrico smiling. Then the Senator starts humming a certain tune...

Critics of the film say it does not go far enough with the political message or with the humour of having a mentally unstable man in charge. I actually liked the softer tone it set, since I can easily see political preaching and slap-stick comedies any time I want.

Oliveri, giving a speech to a huge crowd

For me, the film was more uplifting, telling us that we create so much of our own problems by giving into fear and being concerned with what everyone else thinks. Both brothers seem to gain from the experience, even though we never see the two of them really interact with each other.

For those who want the language aspect of the film, it is done in both Italian and French, taking place in both Italy and France. There is some mild nudity as well, so if that offends you, just close your eyes at the appropriate places.

I enjoyed Viva La Libertà immensely for its humour and heart, and I would definitely encourage anyone to see it, if for no other reason then to see the superb dual performance by Servillo.

At The Cinema - Viva La Libertà
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Long Live Freedom" Internet Movie Database <>
All images are copyright BiBi Film, Rai Cinema, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (MiBAC)

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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