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At the Vatican, following the demise of the Pope, the conclave to elect his successor settles on Cardinal Melville. But the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square wait in vain for the new Pope to step out on the balcony. What is going on? Behind the thick walls of the Vatican panic has set in. After uttering a terrible howl of fear, the Cardinal refuses the office. The officials do everything to try to reason with Melville, including a psychoanalyst, appointed by the Vatican... Do we really have a Pope? Written by
A light-hearted piece on worries and responsibilities
Every comment I see about Habemus Papam seems to focus a little too much on the depiction of the Catholic Church and its figures of authority, maybe because of the title. Let it go, it's not a critical movie of the religious institution, and it's certainly not a mocking of anyone's faith.
It is actually a story about a man's confrontation with great responsibilities, set in a very peculiar yet strangely believable scenario.
I'd say that the central plot and general feeling of the story could be reasonably translated into a different setting. The Catholic Church replaced with a government, the newly-elected Pope replaced with the newly-elected or crowned leader, etc. Maybe a different setting would fall short trying to depict the seriousness of the situation - can you think of a higher position of authority than that of the Pope? -, and maybe it wouldn't be such a charismatic movie if all the central influential characters weren't light-hearted old men, such as the cardinals in this instance... but it could definitely be done.
There are several high points in this movie, most of them straightforward enough that you don't have to be a cinema-nut to appreciate. The acting is terrific, the general quality is comparable with the most hyped Hollywood films (I'm guessing that not needing helicopters, extreme CGI and explosions really helps keeping the budget low). I'm not an 'artsy cinema nut' - and I loved it. (In fact, liking it so much and finding only reviews about it being about 'the Pope' bothered me, that's why I registered to write this review).
Anyway, this was different from everything I had ever seen before, and always in a good way. Well, at least never in a bad one! There is indeed some kind of fresh entertainment and novelty in knowing that your finely tuned powers of plot prediction are useless against a storyteller's unusual way of telling an interesting story. I don't even know who this storyteller is, but assuming it is the director Moretti - he did a good job.
Maybe a more 'conventional' viewer, if there is such a thing, might be unsatisfied because of the peculiarities - some open ended scenes, even one untied subplot; unexplained character reactions that seem entirely sincere nonetheless. While I noticed these things, they didn't annoy me enough to detract from the general experience. And as long as you watch it without a 'conventional viewer's' mindset and expectations, I can almost guarantee that you will be pleasantly entertained.
Let me clarify: don't expect situation jokes. Don't expect an inner journey into the darkness of a hero's troubled dark soul. Don't expect a wacky incarnation of comic relief. And let me repeat this one more time: you don't have to be an 'artsy cinema nut' to enjoy it; just don't expect to be presented to the same old situations and movie gimmicks.
It's actually worth a lot more than just for it's quirkiness, but if for nothing else, watch this so you can briefly purge your mind of the sameness that plagues the screens.
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