I’m wondering now if I actually saw Vincere or hallucinated it while lying in bed with a high fever and a briefly skimmed biography of Mussolini. But I don’t even have a biography of Mussolini to skim, so it must have been filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s jaggedly operatic historical medley after all. The film really is about Ida Dalser, the inconvenient woman who had Il Duce’s love child, and her subsequent obsession with his acknowledgment of that fact—which Bellocchio holds up as a lens on fascist Italy rather in the way a kid might light an ant on fire with a magnifying glass. Dalser is played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno, a sort of Italian Marion Cotillard, who through all the moody lovemaking, the crowds wedging through smoke, the futurist animation, rear projection and newsreel mash-ups, seems to hold the whole movie together with her anguished, gleaming eyes. Filippo Timi plays both Benitos: the god-challenging, nostril flaring despot to be, and the young-adult version of his unclaimed son. Abetted by these forceful performances and by the throbbing pomp of Carlo Crivelli’s score, it’s all a grand and flashy affair—but also weirdly prone to the incoherence, redundancy and bullying dehumanization that characterized the political history it presumes to critique.