The Shoes of the Fisherman
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Kiril Lakota (Anthony Quinn) is a political prisoner who has been imprisoned in Siberia doing manual work outdoors for the USSR heavy industry. One day, after twenty years, he is called to the commander of the prison's office, and he was taken somewhere. Then, he is surprised to be in front of the premier of the USSR, Piotr Ilyich Kamenev. We come to know that Kamenev was Kiril's torturer years ago. Both recognized that they came to know each other well. Kamenev tells Lakota that he will be released, no questions answered, on condition that he will never say who freed him. Kiril wants to reject the offer, but he is told that the conditions had been accepted for him. Kamanev shows Kiril some news reports about China being about to invade Korea, Hong Kong, Viet Nam, and other wheat-producing Asian nations because, in only three months, the Communist leader will not be able to feed his people and millions and millions of people will starve to death. American submarines armed with heavy and nuclear weaponry have already been deployed the area of the China Sea. David Telemond (Oskar Werner) appears and gives Kiril a Vatican passport. Kiril will be subject to diplomatic immunity until he leaves the USRR. They talk in the plane out to the Vatican, and tells him that he's written a book which the Vatican officially has considered heresy, and the next day he has to defend his last book. He also tells Kiril that he has a deadly disease, so it won't take long for him to die. George Faber (David Janssen) is the first journalist who interviews him.

The present Pope (Sir John Gielgud) insists on making him a cardinal. Kiril says that he kept a steadfast faith, but that he has only worked as a priest for his fellow prisoners, so is not prepared for the position. The Pope insists so Kiril has not option but to obey.

George himself has a complex personal life, with a very jealous wife, Dr Ruth Faber (Barbara Jefford), who wants him to get rid of his lover Chiara (Rosemary Dexter). A tense moment happens when the nosy Marchesa (Isa Miranda) tells Chiara to settle down and get married during a high-class party.

Kiril tells David that he didn't see much conventional faith in his book. However, David insists in his views: he wants to remain a priest, and is trying to fulfill his last years alive with purpose. David answers to the court who is judging him. During the interrogatory, he stresses that the design of God includes evil acts, according to him. However, there is no verdict, as news arrives that the Pope has collapsed. George is the first who gives live the news that the Pope has died. Everybody wonders who the next Pope will be. The two most thought-of candidates, Cardinal Rinaldi (Vittorio De Sica) and Cardinal Leone (Leo McKern) do not deem themselves worthy of the position, as they are too old and a bit old-fashioned. They need new blood and new ideas for the 20th Century. After the burial of the Pope in three coffins, one inside another, all the cardinals of the church move behind locked doors until they have chosen a new pope.

Kiril insists on taking David as his secretary, although it's David himself who points to the fact of the ongoing court -the decision will be taken as soon as the new Pope is elected- and he believes the verdict will be against him, but Kiril insists. They joke that the only sure thing is that the next pope would be Italian.

A crowd starts gathering around Saint Peter's while all the rituals before the votation are completed: the locking of doors, the gathering of all the cardinals. Neither Leone nor Rinaldi are able to get enough votes to be elected. As the 6th vote -at two votes per day that means three days later- still shows no decisive solution, George and other people wonder how long it may take to elect someone. Even Kamenev watches George on the news. They wonder also what Cardinal will be elected, as the right person could help them to their own ends. Kamenev admits that the situation in China could blow the world out. His assistant laughs because he is asking magic to solve his problems. Kamenev says that he has run out of maths and facts.

In one of the meetings between votes, Kiril says that Communism has become really conservative. Some cardinals are afraid of revolutions, and Kiril is the only one who admits violence as a means to certain ends and social justice. Questioned further, he admits that he stole bread in the Siberian camp to feed a fellow prisoner with a broken jaw, and he almost killed the guard who attacked that prisoner. When questioned how he would have felt if he had killed that guard, he says that he doesn't know, but insists that sometimes violence may be the only way out.

When nighttime arrives and everybody goes to sleep, Kiril keeps on praying, tormented by his memories.

The next day, after the 7th vote having been void as well, Cardinal Rinaldi (Vittorio de Sica) takes a privilege of church law to openly proclaim Kiril Lakota as his choice. Lakota, Rinaldi says, has preached and suffered imprisonment because of his faith, and he has the strength of personality to adapt the doctrine of the Catholic faith to modern times. Although Lakota is reluctant, other cardinals join in the proclamation, and Cardinals stand up and finally Lakota accepts.

Gelasio (Arnodo Fo) has set out three robes, as is the custom, to accommodate the newly elected pope, whatever his size. David feels completely shocked when he, with all the rest of secretaries, sees Kiril as the new Pope. Kiril chooses his own name to carry, as it was the name of the first preacher who "carried the Gospel" into Ukraine.

All the public falls silent when they see it's Kiril. Then, the public cheers, and Faber says that, with the world on the verge of a crisis, it's impossible to know what the possible ramifications may be in the future.

INTERMISSION - ENTR'ACTE

Kiril wants to keep David close to him, although the rest of the cardinals disagree. Kiril thinks he's an honest man in spite of his wrong opinions. He also wants time to act and pray, changing things. Igor Bounin (Frank Finlay) comes to talk to him, with a gift from Kamenev, some sunflower seeds. Kamenev still thinks that Kiril could see the right word at the right place. Bounin, under other name, was one of the torturers of Kiril under his interrogation. Bounin, on behalf of Kamenev, says that in two months' time there will be war, and that the only solution is that Kiril speaks to China on behalf of the Western countries, and to the Western countries in behalf of China. Kiril dictates his answer: it's a risky thing to do and needs more time to think about it.

Chiara meets George at the zoo. His wife has followed them there, and sees them together.

Kiril wants to talk with Gelasio, who's always busy with housekeeping. Gelasio says that Rome inhabitants will make jokes about the foreign pope, but in time they will get used to it. Kiril has an idea and asks Gelasio to give him a black dress and beret like a normal priest. Kiril goes out to visit Rome, and sees a painter painting, the heavy traffic, people going out having fun, the poor noisy neighborhoods, where Dr Ruth Faber almost runs him over. She asks him to go the a chemist's nearby for some medicines. He goes, but hasn't got any money to pay. The pharmacist trusts him and gives him the medicines. The dying man and his family (Leopoldo Trieste) is a Jew, so he prays in the typical Hebrew way. Kiril and Ruth bade goodbye, and he says "shalom" to everybody. Kiril used to work with a rabbi in the Siberian camp. On their way out, they see a couple kissing and caressing. Ruth is only worried about his failing marriage. They talk. He tells him to find the love she used to feel. However, the Pope's security is awaiting outside, so they can't go have dinner.

When Ruth arrives home, George is packing. All correspondents have been called to Paris. Meanwhile, the Cardinals advice Kiril to wait, but he doesn't want to delay. David has to answer the Cardinal's court. David seems to go dizzy when trying to answer. (He is actually fatally ill; he has an inoperable aneurysm in his brain.) David's concept of Christ is different. They ask David Telemond to put his beliefs in a clear statement. He says he also believes in the world. Kiril himself will tell David that the court has decided that his opinions are not to be divulged and are dangerous. David is completely frustrated, because he has been condemned to silence. Kiril orders him to get medical care and stay silent. David says that he hates and loves the church at the same time.

Kiril dresses in civil clothes to meet with Peng (Burt Kwouk), the Chinese leader, and Kamenev. Kamenev says that Kiril cannot be too humble or too proud. Kiril says he'll try to make peace, and open the markets of surrounding countries for China. Peng asks for Kiril to risk something if he fails.

Back in Rome, Kiril asks for David's help. Kiril says that he should have not accepted. Kiril prays and says that his only consolation is that he cannot be mistaken, no matter what folly he commits. David says that he has no grudge against Kiril, although he'll still hold his beliefs. As they pray, David suddenly collapses, clutching his head and screaming. His brain aneurysm has burst. He dies offscreen as the Pope picks him up and rushes him to the infirmary.

Cardinal Leone, feeling guilty about the way he treated David, asks Kiril to hear his confession. Leone admits he was jealous of David because Kiril loved and trusted him. Kiril admits he kept Leone at a distance because Leone opposed him. Leone says that Kiril must act, but he shouldn't expect approval or understanding. All popes felt lonely when they had to make decisions. Leone says that it can't be avoided.

George is the reporter on the coronation of Kiril. All cardinals oppose Kiril's idea. Kiril offers his abdicadtion. Leone immediately says no.

Immediately after being crowned, Kiril pledges all the wealth of the church to pay for food for China's people.

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