NR, 102 min.
Director: Nanni Moretti
Writers: Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, Frederica Pontremoli
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Jerzy Stuhr, Renato Scarpa, Nanni Moretti, Franco Graziosi, Camillo Milli, Roberto Nobile, Ulrich von Dobschütz, Gianlucca Gobbi, Margherita Buy
The world was shocked this morning when it was reported that Pope Benedict XVI would become the first Pope to resign the post in over 700 years. Eight years ago, I learned more about the papacy than I ever knew when the Conclave selected Benedict as John Paul’s successor. Not being a Catholic, I can have no concept of what a big deal a development like this is, but I will go into this selection process knowing the difference between black smoke and white smoke.
Last year, an Italian movie called “We Have a Pope” imagined an even more devastating scenario than what we learned of today. What if the selected Pontiff didn’t want the job? In fact, there’s a very funny scene in the first few moments of the film when the entire Conclave is making their selections and several members are shown praying that they will not be picked. But, the man who is selected has a much more severe reaction than I think any of the others would have. He gets almost to the window where he will appear and address the masses for the first time when he has a mental break down.
Jerzy Stuhr is wonderfully harried as the papal spokesperson, and the film’s director, Nanni Moretti, plays a non-believer psychiatrist who is brought in to help the situation. There are some warm and funny moments as the psychiatrist interacts with the Cardinals; a scene involving a card game and the prescriptions taken by some of the Cardinals is particularly funny.
While the movie is good and entertaining, there’s a sense that the filmmakers weren’t entirely sure where they wanted to go with it. It weighs many of the new Pope’s doubts, but never seems to come to any conclusions. It begins an interesting study of how out of touch many of the Conclaves are, but drops it when the crisis escalates. Most importantly, the questions raised by its ending are much larger and even more interesting than the ones it explores throughout its running time.
What kind of an impact does the resignation of a Pope really have on the followers of the Roman Catholic Church, or the world as a whole for that matter? How will the Conclave of Cardinals resolve their issue? Did God make a mistake? Yes, that final question is absurd, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be asked.