GENERAL DELLA ROVERE
(Hristo Shopov as Colonel Müller)
ORIGINAL TITLE: Il generale della Rovere.
DIRECTED BY: Carlo Carlei.
MAIN CAST: Pierfrancesco Favino, Hristo Shopov, Raffaella Rea, Andrea Tidona, Michele Nani, Matt Patresi, Mariana Stanisheva, Alexandra Dinu, Valentin Ganev, Teodora Duhovnikova, Julian Vergov, Kamen Ivanov and Valentina Kamenov.
PRODUCED BY: Andrea Rizzoli Jr., Angelo Rizzoli Jr. and Francesca Cingolani.
WRITTEN BY: Massimo De Rita and Simone De Rita.
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY: Vito Abbonato and Andrea Ridolfi.
RUNTIME: 200 minutes (2 parts).
Giovanni Bertone is an educated and refined swindler, a heartless womaniser and a gambler, whose life during the Second World War runs between fraud and deceit. He does not feel the least scruple when he sees the possibility of obtaining a profit, and moral is not exactly a deterrent when he sees the possibility of making money.
We are in a war-ravaged Genoa in 1944. The Second World War has entered its fourth year. The Allies have landed in southern Italy, but the north is still under fascist control, thanks to the German army, which controls and defends every inch of the territory. It is the German army that truly supports and exercises power in Italy, as the fascists are not capable of doing it. The Italians do not want to fight for something that they do not believe in and they are arrested for this.
In this environment, the men of SS Colonel Müller (Hristo Shopov) have orders to capture alive a general sent by the allies, to coordinate the plans of the partisan resistance in the north of Italy and for the general Fortebraccio Della Rovere to take charge of it. However, they kill him accidentally, and the Nazi’s lose the opportunity to get valuable information on the activities of the resistance. However, Müller decides to keep the news of Della Rovere’s death a categorical secret.
Bertone, taking advantage of the disorder in which the country plunges into day by day, makes his neighbours believe that he has friends in high places; a stranger to political issues, he plays on the desperation of someone who has a family member or a loved one in prison and he presents himself as the ideal mediator - in return for large sums of money, he can achieve the desired freedom, prevent the feared deportation to Germany or prevent execution. His great improvisation and his theatricality make him the perfect swindler.
One day, after one of his usual extortions, he’s denounced by a victim, arrested and got in front of Colonel Müller.
In the interrogation, carried out by Müller Bertone, he tries to justify his mean-spirited bribery and fraud, but his apology cannot help him escape the sentence of forced labour and even execution. However, Müller, impressed by Bertone’s lying ability, sees the possibility of using his flair for comedy and proposes a deal to him: Bertone should impersonate the real General Rovere and once imprisoned, obtain vital information on the activities of the Resistance, in order to pass it on to the Colonel Müller. In return, he will obtain freedom.
Bertone, having no option, accepts the pacts and is sent to San Vittore prison, where he starts to impersonate Rovere.
Now just like any other prisoner, escaping the watchful eye of the SS, earning the trust of his fellow inmates without stepping out of line, as well as preventing the other prisoners from finding out the truth about Della Rovere are the challenges that he needs to confront.
Bertone then understands the high risks of his mission: if he does not cooperate with Müller he will be shot; if other prisoners discover his identity, he will be taken as a spy and his ‘mates’ will apply the sentence for these cases: death.
Amongst the horrors of prison, fiction will be confused with reality and the forgotten values from so long ago will be remembered by the General de la Rovere.
*NOTE: The plot in this film is based on a true story that has taken the form of a tale through the work of Indro Montanelli, a landmark journalist of the twentieth century.
General della Rovere is one of those films that delves a little into the knowledge of human behaviour, and it does so in a war-like scenario, in which human beings reveal their true nature when put before the ultimate challenge and fight for survival.
War is not the best time to impose moral values. It is, instead, a time in which logic is pushed aside in the interests of personal survival, by the hegemony “every man for himself” as the vital motto. However, there is a possibility that a small being, when least expected, performs a grand gesture, a truly heroic act (epic, if you will). And this is the fundamental theme of General della Rovere.
The final message through the beautiful parable that conveys the story to us paints a picture of a tremendous humanity that leaves a real impression on the spectator, simultaneously achieving excitement with a brilliantly filmed and tremendously emotional ending.
But there is more. The characters in the film with a strong identity seem to have a clear distinction between good and bad. In this war, it is well defined and it is that which for example is expressly recognised in the final words of Colonel Müller, performed - “splendidly” in the words of the critic – by Hristo Shopov that presents himself as a very different Nazi to those which we are used to seeing in the cinema, as a person that tries to minimise the suffering of the civilian population, seeming more human than other Nazi officials albeit still a Nazi; or in the behaviour of the humble prison barber, who gives him bravery and courage knowing that he is fighting for a better world.
The film has great moments of action, tension and suspense and the interest and drama grows until the end. To this we must add several extraordinary scenes: when Bertone enters his cell for the first time and begins to read what the last occupants have left on the walls before being shot. Then, the bombing from inside the San Vittore prison, which spreads fear and the unknown, (Bertone gets into the role of the Della Rovere General that rallies the other prisoners “Show these bastards that you do not fear death…!” despite trembling with fear himself). Or the time that Colonel Müller becomes close to revealing the identity of the Resistance leader and Bertone, totally infused with his role, writes a short letter to the General’s real wife.
GENERAL DELLA ROVERE - Colonel Müller
GENERAL DELLA ROVERE - Official Trailer 1
GENERAL DELLA ROVERE - Official Trailer 2