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Pope Joan (2009)

Die Päpstin (original title)
A woman of English extraction born in the German city of Ingelheim in the ninth century disguises herself as a man and rises through the Vatican ranks.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Petherbridge ...
Lotte Flack ...
Tigerlily Hutchinson ...
Joan's mother
Richard van Weyden ...


German village Igelheim's backward priest hopes his sons to succeed him after education in the bishop's cathedral school, but the elder succumbs to disease and the youngest lacks any intellectual drive. Traveling teacher Aesculapius arranges for the inquisitive daughter Johanna to be enrolled too, against their father's wishes. Unfit for the boys-only dorm, she gets to stay with count Gerold, incurring his wife's due jealousy. She's to be dismissed, but survives a Viking pillaging slaughter and assumes brother Johannes's identity to join a monastery, where she becomes the infirmary's trainee. Fleeing exposure as female, she arrives in Rome. As a protégée of rivals in the viper nest-like papal court, she ends up elected as pope, but carries count Gerold's baby, guaranteeing exposure. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

22 October 2009 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Pope Joan  »

Box Office


€22,000,000 (estimated)

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Did You Know?


According to Volker Schlöndorff's own statements, he left the director's chair after an argument with the production company Constantin, which wanted to shoot a cinematic feature film version as well as a TV miniseries version at the same time. Schlöndorff disagreed with the terms and left. Franka Potente then left also out of loyalty to the director. See more »


Johanna von Ingelheim: As for strength of will, women can be viewed as superior to man. Eve ate from the apple out of love of knowledge and learning. Adam ate it only because Eve asked him to.
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Featured in De wereld draait door: Episode #5.139 (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

The Best 2 Or More Hours In Front Of The Tele This Year. 2/9/2013
2 September 2013 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

This film was released in 2009, I was surfing Youtube, and I accidentally came upon the trailer. I love a historical drama, and I know a little about Pope Joan, and I didn't understand how I missed knowing about this film till now (2013) I suppose the promotion of foreign language films in Ireland is not great. Anyway I got hold of the film.

It started off a bit slow but still you could see that this was an intriguing story on its own. How could a woman become a Pope in one of the foremost matriarch hierarchical societies in the world. It was then and still is. So how could it ever have happened. Historical there are no details and there it is probably a myth rather then fact, but even the myth is compelling.

I watched the film and it was long but always interesting, any good piece on that period of humanity is. As "the life of man, is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" as Hobbes put it. Stories and the history of that age gives you a sense of count your blessings you live in this age. The film did have an agenda, as a reflection of the position of women in this age. I didn't mind that, Joan was forced to struggle and overcome the cultural limitations placed on her sex to express her natural humanity and intelligence, as millions of women still struggle with the same in this age. I would love to say things are wholely better in this age for women, but I know in parts of this modern world it is still very much the same. Women's march for equality is very far from over. So that seemed a natural agenda to push for a tale about a woman pope and why not? I would regard myself as a male feminist and the message still needs to be told.

The film was far from perfect, and it could have been a whole lot better, there were scenes that could have been added and omitted, but I still found myself recommending it to friends, and it was one of the best 2 or more hours in front of the tele for me this year. I still loved it to spite its obvious flaws. In the end you can't beat a good story whether that story is true or not.

So watch it and see do you agree with the 6.5 rating for this epic film in scope and tale. I think 6.5 is very unfair, I rate it 9/10.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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