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This is a movie about an elderly man who has been chosen to be the next
Pope. But, beware: the operative word in the previous sentence is
"man", not "Pope", because the story is not about the challenges of
being (or becoming) Pope: the story is about the struggles of being
human. That's the reason why each and every one of us should be able to
easily follow and enjoy this funny, educated movie. Taking for granted
that all the viewers will be men (and women) themselves, it will be
easy for everybody to get in touch with the doubts, the fears and the
memories that the main character has to confront after he is called to
take on himself one of the greatest responsibilities that the world has
Of course a lot of risks were involved in dealing with such issues as faith and self confidence using such an unusual and peculiar subject. But, just like a slim young acrobat on a flying trapeze daring to attempt a difficult exercise, the movie achieves the result of telling this strange story with grace, with humor, with kindness, and with a respect for the themes involved that, I think, the faithful part of the audience should be able to appreciate even more than those among us who wouldn't define themselves religious, or catholic.
Furthermore, I can't resist to notice how funny it is that a movie realized by an openly atheist author depicts catholic hierarchy with such a sympathetic view with tones much more friendly, I would say, than the ones of many mainstream blockbusters we have seen in recent years. So, go watch this movie with confidence (it's an entertaining, interesting work of fiction), and trust (it's soft-spoken, and respectful): you could take even your kids along and, go figure, even your confessor!
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nanni Moretti's film has an interesting premise - what if the Cardinal
elected Pope felt himself incapable of doing the job? That is an
intriguing idea to explore, and you could do it as political drama or
out-and-out farce. What you cannot do is have both. But more intriguing
than a man having an interior struggle with being elected God's
representative on Earth, would be the external struggles unleashed by
his public refusal to accept the office. That is where, unfortunately,
Moretti's film ends - at the point where it should start.
Meanwhile, imbecilic cardinals dance, clap their hands, throw hissy fits at card games and mess up in slow-mo volleyball. Is this pomp and costume reduced to its ignoble essence, or just poor characterisation? The Pope goes walkabout and ends up hanging out with an acting troupe. Is this religion as grand theatre, or Roman Holiday for a top clergyman? Tone, theme and satirical targets all lack focus in this under-realised piece. Moretti's own character has one scene of comic failure with the protagonist, and then seems merely to function as a cutaway from the main plot line. Excising this psychiatrist completely would go some way to tightening up a very disjointed piece.
Michel Piccoli is engaging as the Cardinal encumbered with a crisis of confidence, but that performance gets lost in the narrative failings that frame it. Such is the lack of focus that audiences come away wondering what the film is meant to be. A baffling film, and not in a good way.
This film has had a very diverse range of reviews, and this is probably
because its full appreciation requires a finger on the pulse of the
Moretti makes a statement about the current state of the Church, which behind its omnipotent facade seems to be unable to truly face the challenges of remaining relevant to its followers. Rather than set up an intricate political plot of intrigue and betrayal, Moretti chooses to represent this powerlessness through a single person, an unassuming cardinal who feels unable to take on the responsibility. At the same time, though, he reveals that the state of unease is widespread among the cardinals, who dread the thought of having to take on this leadership, as much as the thought of losing their leader.
A banal way forward would have been for the cardinals to turn against each other, or against the Pope; instead, here they find relief in reverting to games and simple everyday activities, as if the isolation inside the Vatican walls is lifting an unbearable oppression from them, as they can do normal things as normal people do.
The film has several imperfections, and one feels sometimes the story gets somewhat contorted, especially when the new Pope rekindles his old love for the theatre. Still, it is a visually attractive film, sensitively scripted and well acted.
This is a surprisingly sympathetic film made by a non-believer who is often critical of the Church. Moretti is appreciative of the magnitude of the problem faced by the church, but most of all one has the impression that he cares deeply about the people involved: those on the balcony, those behind the curtains and especially those down below, in the square.
This film is mildly recommended.
In one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies, Billy Wilder's enchanting Roman Holiday, a princess, with an aversion to her royal responsibilities and its added pressure of pomp and circumstance that comes with it, flees her guardians to escape to a simpler commoner's life in Rome. Complications ( and love ) ensue. In Nanni Moretti's engaging We Have a Pope, the job description might have changed slightly, but the same intensity and stress of duty and honor remains. And while the main character is never in search of love, complications begin to pile up.
The pope has died and a new successor must be elected. After multiple voting, the conclave of cardinals decide that Cardinal Melville would be the best candidate to fill that void. The crowds form outside the Vatican awaiting their decision, all eyes focused on that central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and its new pontiff. Yet inside, it is another story entirely as the newly anointed and appointed leader refuses to take on that role. A psychotherapist is brought in to convince Cardinal Melville that this big white whale of a job belongs to him. So what does the cardinal do? He escapes, seeking la dolce vita that others have.
Now Moretti's basic idea is an intriguing one, that one man who so many look to for spiritual guidance is himself in search of that elusive goal and is in the midst of his own personal crisis of faith. Morretti serves his story well as a director, setting up his characters, all of whom are held captive in their grandiose surroundings and involving the movie audience with the regal pageantry and splendor.
But as screenwriter, his script loses its focus with some subplots and actions that never quite gel. Just as his character becomes lost, so does his film. Scenes involving his interactions and experiences with the common folk fall flat and don't seem to resolve the complex issue or provide any insight for this troubled soul's introspection. As the film progresses, the remaining cardinals become more one-dimensional and their behavior, while slightly amusing, become easy folly as they play volleyball in their fancy silk trappings, merely decoration rather than real people. ( Only Renato Scarpi as Cardinal Gregori provides any depth to his character. ) Plus, the role of the psychologist ( also played by Moretti ) becomes a mere afterthought, never really building any relationship with his patient. And, those annoying Leaps of Logic comes to the forefront during his respite allowing him his "Roman Holiday", though those everyday "economic" expenses are not explained in the least ( free hotel room, food, theater ticket, bus transportation, etc.).
The film detours to an unsatisfying and unexpected conclusion that basically negates everything before it. As Cardinal Melville grapples with the anxiety of becoming one of the world's most exalted religious leader, Moretti too never comes to terms with his initial fascinating premise and his film's plot structure.
Fortunately, the talented French actor, Michel Piccoli gives a wonderfully subtle performance as Il papa. His nuanced facial expressions and sad soulful eyes convey the character's humility, fear, and wisdom beyond his years. It is superb acting that nearly makes up for some of the film's missteps along the way.
While many of the compelling elements are up there on the screen for a fine film, We Have a Pope simply needed to have a better script ( and ending ) to achieve a level of success. Still, Moretti does stay true to his vision and never becomes sentimental or mawkish. In We Have a Pope, while the job may remain unfilled, the moviegoer in us all regretfully remains unfulfilled as well. GRADE: B-
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A few days ago, I watched Prometheus, and found it such a revolting
stupid waste of time, that I created my account here only to warn
anyone from committing the same mistake; Now, unhappily, I have to add
this HABEMUS PAPAM to the "what-a-waste-of-time-and-money" list...
Just like Prometheus, what starts out as a very well made film, with impressively credible imagery, costumes, ambiance etc., and generates very high expectations, COMPLETELY loses track, and becomes an utterly meaningless and pointless waste of time, with an INCREDIBLY bad ending.
When the movie begins, we see the election of the new pope, almost unanimous...a man with a gentle and humble face, and we expect he will lead the church into a glorious new path of renovation...but then, as he is being announced to the crowd, he screams and runs off to his chambers saying he just "can't do it".
Would he had killed himself, or thrown himself off the balcony, it would have been far better for us viewers...
With this unrealistic but interesting premise, we are enticed into expecting "what an interesting situation, let's see the pope as a normal man", the movie then shows the church calling in a psychologist to help him out of his crisis...the 1st encounter is comical, with the shrink and the Pope surrounded by cardinals...
At this point, still anticipating a good story, our expectations change, added by the anticipation of comedy, of funny situations, something akin to "King Ralph"...but then, then...the movie DIES. The plot simply STOPS.
For the next hour and 20 minutes, we see the pope running off into the streets, mumbling to himself, as lost as the storyline...NO deep insights, NO FUN whatsoever, NOT ONE interesting or deeper dialogue, he just hangs around a group of actors, one of whom is insane (a feeble and witless attempt at showing catholicism as a fraud?) so completely lost as to border insane. To think this sorry excuse of a mature man might have been a cardinal is simply unbelievable.
Oh yes, and all the while back in the Vatican, the shrink is doing...NOTHING. He plays cards and - VOLLEYBALL(!!!) with the old cardinals. He DOES NOT meet the pope again, don't be fooled by some "plot summaries" around.
In the end, as lost and whiney as before, not one iota the wiser, the pope returns, and gives his 1st speech to the crowd: "I'm not the right person, sorry everybody, I'm not up to it." And walks away back into the room. THE END. WTF???
He does NOTHING a normal man would - he does not resign, he does not appoint a successor, he does not warn the cardinals he wants to resign, he simply punches the whole of Christendom in the face with a "I'm sorry" whimper.
And the college of Cardinals, portrayed as a bunch of mindless aging old men fit for a nursery home, lets him go through to the end. The leaders of a 2000 year old organization act like a collective bad case of Alzheimer's...
I'd rather they'd poisoned him the night before and chosen another cardinal than watching that absolutely implausible "plot".
A COMPLETE waste of time, money, scenery, everything...and between Prometheus and this one, I've wasted quite a lot of my time and patience as well.
Learn from my mistakes, keep away from these dumps, and please wish me luck, I'm trying to find a good movie to recommend, but it's not being easy lately.
This is going to be one of the most watchable films of the year, a
conversation piece to shoot the breeze around religion. It is about a
new Pope elect who, after the elaborate ritual has drawn thousands of
people in anxious anticipation outside the Holy See, discovers that he
cannot go out on the balcony and give his blessing. He cannot be what
he's expected to be.
So the eye turns inwards for self-discovery. On that level the film adopts a tone of melancholy yearning. It is sad, just to see a man weighed down by the will of god, possibly dismayed at the silence. On the flipside it is funny, when all the ordained officials are worried about is the ceremonial shibboleth or a cup of cappuccino. It is generally bittersweet with old life greeting itself from a pulpit that demands closure, revelation. Meanwhile conjecture and idle speculation are continuously throughout the film being blabbed from the TV.
But does it matter, which is to say can it weigh down on us or instill a silence in which to seek our words? I'm not just idling here, what I mean is this; although enjoyable on a very plain level, melancholy with red curtains fluttering in absence, and since it competed with both Tree of Life and Melancholia this year at Cannes, does it offer its own ascetic images to contemplate?
The answer is likely no, but not for failing to provide opportunities. Exemplified in two instances, double perspectives both; one is of course at the beginning, with outside the triumph and celebration of organized faith, faith in god's will, but from inside there is only the confused, agitated mind of a plain man who must embody that will. The other is when the cardinals rejoice that the Pope is finally doing better; but of course, from our perspective, we know that inside the chambers is only an even more plain man as substitute, baffled at his newfound importance. He stages behind the papal curtains a play of light and shadow for the gathered congregation outside, this is a fitting image of what Moretti is looking to exemplify.
So in both cases we are directed to recognize a charade of profoundest deception or false hope. Where god should be made manifest, we have instead the same hapless poor schmucks as the rest of us. There is no higher wisdom, atheists will rejoice in this. Another opinion is that his depiction of cardinals, despite the odd sour face, as kindly old men, overgrown children really, is not as scathing as some might have hoped.
But the old man heard at the sermon, about the wisdom that comes from humility. Some weighs we let fall on our shoulders, because there's no two ways around it. So even though this spiritual absence becomes deafening in the finale, I just cannot embrace any of it.
Catholicism may or may not deserve our modern scorn, but faith isn't doctrine. Faith being a personal attainment, it is not an old man greeting us from a balcony.
I am sure this movie will offend the sensitivities of ardent Catholics. After all anything that questions in any way the simplicity of their beliefs offends them. Nanni Moretti made perfectly Italian comedy. Without exaggeration, without huge belly laughs, but putting gentle smile on viewers face. A cardinal, amongst many who pray not be elected, becomes a pope and experiences an existential crisis. Nanni Moretti is obviously not a believer, but he is not a militant atheist either. He observes with regretful expression, because as he once said he is sorry that he is not religious. What holds this movie together is magnificent Michel Piccoli, a legend of European cinema. With his gentle smile and demeanor, this confused cardinal puts a very sympathetic face on the church that desperately needs help.
Nanni Moretti is the Woody Allen of Italian cinema.
Just as Woody Allen would have dealt with Jewish subjects, Moretti is concerned with what makes the world of papacy tick in the Vatican and looks at the subject from a psychoanalyst's point of view and as a citizen of the neighboring city of Rome.
It is not surprising that Moretti himself plays the cheeky role of the best psychoanalyst in Italy, who has separated from his wife (who in her turn thinks she is a better psychoanalyst than her husband and is having an affair outside her marriage with yet another psychoanalyst). Even her two kids seem to be psychoanalysts in the making. Even one of the Cardinals is surviving with the help of an incredibly potent anti- depressant, an indirect swipe at the mental condition of some of the Cardinals!
The Pope-elect suffers from an inferiority complex that his sister was chosen as an actress in a play when he so desperately wanted to act in the play himself (a mirror image of the squabbling kids of the lady psychoanalyst in her car). Decades later he identifies himself as an actor going through a mental crisis.
Moretti means well. Moretti is interesting even when he attempts to point out quite correctly the myriad psychoanalytical situations that populate the Bible. There is visual psychoanalytic comedy, too, when Jerzy Stuhr's character receives a call from the Pope-elect and involuntarily stands up in respect as though his boss, the Pope, were standing in front of him.
While Moretti succeeds in getting amazing and credible performances from Michel Piccoli and Jerzy Stuhr (who are anyway great performers), Moretti is out of his depth in portraying a bunch Cardinals as pathetic, low-IQ human beings who sulk in front of a psychoanalyst. While there may be a few among the Cardinals who fit that bill, the majority of them are well-read, intelligent, above-average individuals who might be dogged in their views but all the same are quite capable of resisting the wiles of a psychoanalyst.
The best aside in the film for me was Moretti's comment that "gas" for your kitchen and heating is cheaper in the Vatican than in Rome and that you can get many goods including medicines there that you cannot get in Rome.
Moretti is good at being able to bring out his views without offending anyone but he, despite his best intentions, unfortunately never can be considered as one of the best directors in Italy. But he can take comfort that he made Mr Piccoli give a superb performance in his own film.
I caught half of this movie and decided to search and record it. Then I saw it with friends who could not stop laughing throughout the movie. The acting was superb, the story line - not a dull moment! We had a feeling as if someone had a premonition of what is to come in 2013. Some scenes in the movie are quite memorable - when each of the Cardinals utters a personal prayer "Not me!" The volleyball game which shows the cardinals as regular human beings...The scene in the theater when the "Pope" recites the part being played on stage, and then when the cast are in the restaurant and he feels totally detached. A lot of touching moments in this film. It is interesting and enjoyable whether you are a Catholic or not!
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