Film: We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam) (2011)
Cast includes: Michel Piccoli (A Leap in the Dark), Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room), Margherita Buy (Days and Clouds)
Director: Nanni Moretti (The Caiman)
Genre: Light Drama | Comedy | Satire (102 minutes)
Look for it later in 2012
Crowds gather in St. Peter’s Square to pray and to wait. It’s a sea of scarlet as 108 cardinals make their way to the Sistine Chapel for the conclave. Journalists struggle for scraps of information… a hopeless pursuit. Once they finally get the lights turned on in the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals get down to the task of voting. When each has written a name on his ballot, he signals that he’s finished by tapping his pen. As the votes are counted, most cardinals have a similar silent prayer… “Not me. Oh Lord, please not me.” Although Cardinal Gregory gets the most votes in the first round, the vote isn’t decisive. The smoke is black. The crowd solemnly waits and speculates. When Cardinal Melville… a real dark horse… gets the majority of votes, he has the look of a man suffering from indigestion. There are cheers when the white smoke appears and bells ring.
Just as the announcement is being made from the balcony… “We have a Pope”… the newly elected pope is having severe misgivings. “God will give you strength,” says one of the cardinals… but to no avail. The crowd is ready to embrace their new “Il papa,” but no one appears. As the excitement gradually fizzles, no one knows quite what to do. After a medical exam reveals nothing significant, Professor Brezzi, the most esteemed psychiatrist in Italy, is summoned to figure out how to help His Holiness. But the restrictions are quite restrictive… no questions about his childhood, his mother, his past, his feelings… no, no, no. And the discussion about nothing takes place with 108 cardinals looking on. Although they reject the idea of the pope seeing a shrink in private, a plan is hatched to secretly smuggle him out and make that happen. His Holiness is quite amazed how unrecognizable he is without his pope uniform. That gets him thinking.
If you’re expecting this film to take on modern day controversies in the Catholic Church, it’s not that kind of film. But that said, it does ask a serious question… what if there were more humility and humanity among those in the Church hierarchy? Professor Brezzi must be sequestered inside the Vatican until the new pope can be announced. Before long, there’s a bit of creative group therapy going on inside the Vatican while His Holiness does soul searching on his own outside. This is a gorgeous film, making full use of the ceremony and trappings of Vatican ritual. While there’s footage from the Vatican, most of it is shot at other locations. Although it’s a satirical comedy, it has a very gentle touch. The actual Vatican, as expected, takes issue with the film, but the film generally avoids Church controversy. It won’t have you laughing out loud, but there are many charming moments.
3 popped kernels
A gentle and thought-provoking satire about a newly elected pope, who has doubts
Distribution: Mainstream Limited release & Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: High-end production
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking