Though Vincere and Formosa Betrayed are both films about dictators, they don’t stand on equal ground. Vincere is the story of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini and his supposed love affair with a woman named Ida Dalser. In the film, Dalser claims she’s wed Il Duce and given birth his child, but with no documents to back her up, she lands in an institution. Though Vincere is stylized with dark shadows and drained colors, it also includes real footage of Mussolini and the war. Believable and nuanced acting turns by Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Dalser) and Felippo Timi (Mussolini) make the film a must-see.
While Vincere packs emotional weight through the strength of its cast, the actors are just one reason why Formosa Betrayed is a complete failure. Though Betrayed is also about a dictator (Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek during the Cold War), a cheesy script, overacted lines, and clichéd plot points all contribute to the makings of a straight-to-DVD movie—-in the vein, say, anything Jessica Simpson has made in the past four years. It could be no accident that James Van Der Beek looks so bored playing the lead; the film is a dud, and he appears to know it.
Read Tricia Olszewski‘s review of both films here.