I’m yet to review a newly released film and so this post is an attempt to rectify that.
This film by renowned Italian director Nanni Moretti, has literally just been released in the UK; well, it officially opened in cinemas last Friday (2nd December), so close enough.
‘We Have A Pope’ or Habemus Papam has been a huge success in Italy, (it was also nominated for the prestigious Palm d’Or award at Cannes) and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the gala screening of the film at the BFI London Film Festival back in October to see it for myself (again, thanks to being an intern at BBC Storyville!).
I was very unsure about what this film would be like when I quickly researched Moretti’s past work. Indeed, this film’s title ‘We Have A Pope’ is fairly peculiar. I had also never seen a contemporary Italian film before (shock horror at my uncultured ignorance) and this meant I really didn’t know what to expect.
As I left the Storyville office, one of my colleagues said I would enjoy the film as it ‘should be very funny’, which only perplexed me more. Here I was thinking it was going to be some kind of documentary about life in the Vatican, or some weighted commentary on how bad/ good the Pope is.
How wrong I was. Turns out my Storyville colleague was right. Moretti’s film was indeed very funny. Yet it was also an emotive and thought provoking look into the life of a fictional Pope. After his appointment, the Pope begins to have a crisis of confidence, verging on a complete breakdown because he fears he cannot handle his new responsibilities.
When he refuses to step out and address the faithful to give his first blessing this causes an international outcry as people begin to speculate what is wrong with the new Pope and why he has not presented himself to the world. The Vatican then draft in a respected psychoanalyst named Dr. Brezzi (played by Moretti himself) to come to the aid of the confused and reluctant Pope.
When Dr. Brezzi fails to help the Pope, the Vatican take him to another shrink outside the Vatican, who just happens to be Brezzi’s ex-wife and ‘second-best’ in the business of psychoanalysis.
At this point, the frightened Pope manages to escape from his entourage. He ends up walking around Rome alone, trying to deal with his disillusionment with life.
Back in the Vatican, the waiting Cardinals are told that the Pope has retired to his chambers for some philosophical and spiritual reflection. To pass the time Dr. Brezzi, who has been confined in the Vatican alongside the other Cardinals, decides to set up a volleyball tournament with the aged men, which provides most of the laugh-out-loud comedy for the film.
I won’t reveal any more of the plot for risk of ruining it for anyone who wants to see it in the cinema.
Some reviews I have read of this film say that the comedy is lost in translation, which is strange because the one thing that really surprised and impressed me was that “We Have A Pope’ was still very funny, even though there were subtitles to deal with.
I also like that the film stays clear away from any of the debates or scandals surrounding the Catholic Church. This is a fictional story dealing with fictional issues, and though the premise of Moretti’s film is fairly unrealistic, it still poses some interesting questions about what would happen if the Pope really did refuse to accept his role as ‘God’s representative on Earth’.
If you’ve never seen a modern Italian film I suggest, like me, you enlighten yourself by going to see this one. It will make you laugh but it will also make you think and ultimately you’ll come out feeling lot of sympathy for the poor fictional Pope who has been thrust into a job he really doesn’t want.
As ever, here’s the trailer providing a glimpse of what the film has to offer: