Berlusconi hospitalized ahead of fraud ruling

Silvio Berlusconi has been taken to hospital with knee pains, Italian media reported on Friday, ahead of a crucial week in which a court is due to rule whether he will go under house arrest or do community service.

Berlusconi hospitalized ahead of fraud ruling
On April 10th, Silvio Berlusconi will find out if he will go under house arrest or do community service for a tax-fraud conviction. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Berlusconi is suffering an inflammation of his left knee and could be let out soon to enjoy his last few days of full freedom, the reports said, adding that the former prime minister was hospitalized in Milan.

A court in Milan will meet on April 10th to decide how the 77-year-old billionaire tycoon will have to serve a one-year prison sentence for tax fraud linked to his business dealings that was handed down last year.

Given his age, Berlusconi will not actually have to go to prison and his spell of house arrest or community service could be reduced to ten and a half months.

His lawyers have made a request for community service with a non-governmental organization, although they have not revealed which one he has opted for.

Both options would restrict his political activities as the three-time premier would not be allowed to lead an election campaign, deliver political addresses and would have to make special requests before giving interviews.

Berlusconi has already had his passport confiscated to stop him from going abroad. He is also banned from parliament and barred from standing in elections for six years under a law to exclude criminals from politics.

The court has until April 15th to deliver its ruling, which will come ahead of European elections in May and as opinion polls show his party, Forza Italia (Go Italy), falling in the polls to around 20 percent.

Berlusconi claims that as the leader of Italy's main centre-right party, he needs political power to be able to push through much-needed reforms and he held talks with President Giorgio Napolitano earlier this week.

Italian media said that he appealed for clemency at the closed-door meeting but failed to get any endorsement.

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Here’s the first glimpse of the Italian Silvio Berlusconi film

The trailer is finally here for Paolo Sorrentino's biopic of Silvio Berlusconi, a man who the director called "an archetype of Italianness".

Here's the first glimpse of the Italian Silvio Berlusconi film
A scene from Paolo Sorrentino's film about Silvio Berlusconi, Loro. Image: Universal Pictures International Italy/YouTube

Filmed in Rome and Tuscany last summer, the hotly anticipated Italian-language feature – titled Loro or “Them” – does not yet have an official release date, but is expected to premier at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Sorrentino, best known internationally for his Oscar-winning film La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) and the TV series The Young Pope, has said he wanted to profile Italy's most infamous living politician because “he is an archetype of Italianness and through him, you can describe Italians”.

To judge by the trailer released on Monday, the film will focus at least as much on Berlusconi's personal life as his long career in media and politics. 

“I was interested in the man that’s behind the politics, but I am not so interested in the political stuff,” Sorrentino told the BBC last year, explaining that he would also tell the story of those around the businessman-turned-politician who tried to use his position to “change the course of their own life”. 

The teaser features multiple women, many of them scantily clad, but only a passing glimpse of Berlusconi, played by Toni Servillo. 

Paolo Sorrentino (L) and Toni Servillo with the 2014 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for La Grande Bellezza. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP

The Neapolitan actor – who starred in La Grande Bellezza as well as Il Divo, Sorrentino's musical biopic of another former premier, Giulio Andreotti – has already impressed the Italian media with what La Repubblica called his “metamorphosis”. Photos from the set showed Servillo sporting Berlusconi's trademark tan and distinctive hairline; now he's winning praise for his spot-on impression of the four-time prime minister's voice.

We've only heard him say one line so far. Loro's trailer opens with a man's voice asking, “What did you expect: to be the richest man in the country, become prime minister and be madly loved by everyone too?” 

As Berlusconi, Servillo replies: “Yes, that's exactly what I expected.”

It's not clear if the real Berlusconi has seen the film. While he originally offered to allow Sorrentino to shoot inside his private villas, by October last year he said he had heard unwelcome rumours that the film might be a “political aggression towards me”.   

According to La Repubblica, Sorrentino did get the chance to meet Berlusconi's second ex-wife, Veronica Lario, with whom the politician is engaged in a long-running legal battle over alimony. Played by Elena Sofia Ricci, Lario also features in the trailer, looking mournful on a trampoline.

Berlusconi's pet poodle Dudù also makes an appearance. 

The teaser comes just a week after Berlusconi's greatest political defeat to date: his Forza Italia party won just 14 percent of the vote in Italy's general election, making it second within the centre-right bloc to the populist League. Should the group manage to form a government, the League – not Berlusconi – now gets to decide who will be prime minister.

Little has been seen or heard from Berlusconi publicly since the results came in. Many expect it to be the last time that the 81-year-old leads his party into an election, despite his supposed political immortality.

“The world has an idea of Berlusconi [as] a very simple person,” Sorrentino told the BBC. “But… I understood that he is more and more complicated than this. I would love to try to describe this complex character.”