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"Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ"...
30 years have passed since that memorable Sunday, the 22nd of October 1978 when the world heard these words said by the new Pope, the Polish Pope, the one "from a faraway country" as he metaphorically called himself. These words, which constitute the basis for the title of the movie by Jeff Bleckner, truly occurred revolutionary, renewing the face of the Church, humanity, the whole earth. The popularity of this unique second the longest pontiff in history went in pairs with the popularity of the Catholic Church, but foremost, emphasized the shining beauty of living in accordance with the Gospel. And naturally, after the death of such eminent figure, there appeared lots of projects for movies. And so far it seems all right. However, the dilemma appears if yet another biopic really occurs to be useful, if yet another interpretation offers anything new in the sea of so many archives left from John Paul II's pontiff?
I do not mean to be placed in the view of a severe critic. However, what I notice in this movie are serious inconsistencies, historical changes as well as particular simplifications of Karol Wojtyla's personality. It is true that the film presents to us the major events of pope's life from his historic visit to Jerusalem in the Jubilee 2000 through the fateful events at St Peter's Square in May 1981 to the last days of his suffering and death in dignity. Yet, there is no clear insight into the fact who Karol Wojtyla really was. His suffering is stressed but his sacrifice is not. If you want facts, you will get them in one of many biographies or documentaries. What is needed in such a movie is the heart and heartfelt uniqueness! I can understand that the film was not made by the Pole and there are some simplifications. Yet, Jasna Gora changed into Ostra Brama in Vilnius leaves much to be desired. I was also dissatisfied seeing some of the scenes that are wrong and describe events that never happened, for instance John Paul II never fell before so many people. Moreover, it is the first time I have heard that he looked at family photos so many times. He was perfectly aware what his difficult role was and was strong enough to carry this burden.
There is, however, one biographical period highlighted in the movie which, so far, we have not been able to find elsewhere: Lolek's childhood. The screenplay includes the 1920-1929 period when Lolek's mother was still alive and believed that her son would be a great man one day. There is a very touching scene when little Lolek prays at his ill mother's bed. The example of his father - a patriot and a pious man who constituted an example of Christian life for Karol is also showed. Highlighting those aspects is useful because it was at that time when Karol grew to spiritual maturity, when he started to go upward against the commonness and got ready to become the head of the Church and witness the challenging words "Do not be afraid of Christ!"
The performances... Someone joked that after the German movie about the head of the Third Reich DER UNTERGANG they cast Bruno Ganz and Thomas Kretschman in the film about the head of the church. Funny as it may seem, their roles are shockingly opposite. Kretschmann attempts at portraying the pope and takes all pains to do it right. Although he leaves much to be desired, the efforts of his are noticeable, particularly at the scene in Jerusalem or the final scenes requiring hard acting. Here, the effects do not pay so much but rather the intentions and we, as viewers, do appreciate that. The rest of the cast, however, are very unsuccessful in their roles. Bruno Ganz, though a terrific actor, does not fit to the role of Cardinal Wyszynski whatsoever! The same can be said about all supporting cast.
All in all, the film is worth seeing as yet another look at Karol Wojtyla's life. However, fact after fact may occur useless rather than helpful. Therefore, I think that the movie is more in between great and gray since what movie can equal with the greatness of John Paul II? Yet, all movies that stress spiritual values should be highly appreciated.
Yes, the viewer of good says with the late pope: "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power, open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. DO NOT BE AFRAID! Christ knows "what is in man". He alone knows it"
Have no fear to open wide the doors for Christ in art and cinema as well!
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