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Following the premature death of his mother, Karol Wojtyla is brought up by his father in the Polish city of Krakow during the first half of the 20th century. An outstanding student with a magnetic personality, he dreams of becoming an actor. When his homeland is invaded by the Nazis in 1939, he and his friends secretly oppose the systematic persecution of their Polish culture. But, with the death of his father and the lacerating solitude which accompanies this loss, Karol's personal "resistance" takes on a new form and he decides to follow a priestly vocation. At the end of the war, Poland falls into the grip of Soviet totalitarianism. The newly ordained Karol is constantly surrounded by young people whom he teaches to safeguard and defend human dignity. He could be considered a serious threat to the regime, but the Communist authorities merely see him as an innocuous intellectual and even encourage his nomination for the position of bishop. Karol Wojtila is the youngest bishop in ... Written by
Scholars at the Vatican provided network writers at CBS with script consultations before work on the film began. See more »
After Wojtyla accepts the papal election, the cardinals rise and applaud. The camera then pans in towards the new Pope. However, if you look closely, it is actually the mirror image shot from the previous conclave, with John Paul I clearly in the middle of it all instead of John Paul II. See more »
I dare to think, that my opinion (I am a Pole, coming from Krakow) might be interesting for other watchers of this movie. So here are my remarks.
Polish historical background is shown properly, although movie only marks milestones of Polish history after 2nd World War. Krakow is shown in realistic way, main scenes are shot in REAL historic places f.eg.:
Pope 'window' chat on Franciszkanska street
Krakow's ghetto 'cleaning' on Pilsudski bridge
meeting with Wyszynski in Corpus Christi church's garden
I am under impression of Cary Elwes performance. I always regarded him as a comedy actor. But he shows very good picture of young Wojtyla. On the beginning he is rather 'flat'. But he is getting better getting 'older'. He is in fact very similar to young Wojtyla. Very good job, Cary.
If Cary did good work, Jon Voight have done excellent work. Producers have chosen conclave as the moment of replacing main actor. It is very good idea. Jon Voight perfectly studied mimicry of old Wojtyla, his way of walking (before and after hip operation). He showed us in realistic way growing influence of Parkinson disease. I fully agree he deserves Emmy award. His last public 'dumb' appearance on Vatican window is very touching and memorable picture.
Authors of movie did extremely good research work. Movie quotes several well known memorable pictures of Wojtyla, f. eg:
reading a book in canoe - canoe altar mess - making a 'glasses' from
hand by Pope - described above last public appearance
Sometimes (especially when light dimes and Voight is taken from profile) main actor became so similar to Wojtyla, that you might have impression to watch documentary.
Unfortunately special effects are bad. Pictures of crowd (f.eg. Warsaw mass, St Peter Square) are artificial, flying doves are artificial, German airplanes over Krakow are also too artificial. Maybe it is not visible in TV, but it looks really bad in theater.
And finally last remark. This movie is now distributed in polish cinemas (Poland is probably the only country in the world which broadcasts this movie in theaters). I do not know exactly what is the difference between versions shown in USA in TV and 'polish' theatrical version. I can see it is much shorter (127 min) Unfortunately it is also dubbed. I could not hear polish accent of Jon Voight. If I could vote for main actors only my score would be 10/10. But whole movie (although very good as a TV movie) is not perfect for reasons described above. It deserves strong 8.
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