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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.
I would rate this film a four. But I would give a zero to the people
who caused it to be labeled a comedy. Yes, the premise could have been
comedic. A pope in need of therapy? One thinks of movies like Analyze
This with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. But there is little comic
about the way the pope's need for therapy is handled here. A pope
trying to flee his responsibilities by pretending to be someone else?
Perhaps you might expect an Italian farce, a la Roberto Benigni. Again,
you will be disappointed.
This movie is definitely not "A story centered on the relationship between the newly elected Pope and his therapist." The Pope spends very little time with his therapist and there is no "relationship."
This is a bittersweet meditation about what happens when a confused, inarticulate man, suffering from (perhaps justified) feelings of inadequacy, is given a huge responsibility. There are no laughs, and there are only a few potentially comic situations that could have been much funnier than they were. At most, you could call a three or four sentences of the dialogue "wry." The plot isn't much to speak of either. The church is treated with too much reverence, as though any sort of satire is too risky. Even devout Catholics will wonder about the missed opportunities. (A random episode of Father Brown takes more good-natured satiric risks than this whole film, and it's a detective series.)
If you go in expecting a melodrama, a character study, a premise for a story without much of a story, you may enjoy the fine acting, the scenery, and the elegiac mood. If you are expecting humor, fun, satire, and the satisfaction of a story well told, you are going to be puzzled.
I saw the movie a few days ago and, even though I did not like the
ending, I gave a 9/10, because I loved how the Cardinals were made to
look so godly and so human at the same time. Michel Piccoli did such
Last but not least, besides being very entertaining, the movie now has proved to be prophetic, as Pope Benedict has resigned to everyone's surprise. That alone makes this movie, a great movie.
PS: For the person who wrote: "Waste of time, written by an atheist so what do you expect", and then complains of "an insult to all Believers". I am not an atheist; I believe in God. But my thinking brain felt deeply insulted as I was reading the rant.
The cardinals have gathered in the conclave in Rome to elect a new
Pope. Everyone is afraid to get the job. Cardinal Melville is elected.
As the faithful gathered outside waiting for the announcement, Melville
breaks down on the way to the balcony. The cardinals can't leave until
the announcement and the public cannot be informed without Melville.
They reluctantly bring in psychoanalyst Professor Brezzi to treat the
new Pope. Brezzi is surprised that he is also forced to stay inside
isolated from the world and his family. Brezzli's wife is also a
psychoanalyst and Melville is secreted to be treated by her. He manages
to escape from his escorts and roam the streets of Rome.
I don't think more sophisticated comedies translate well between different languages and cultures. There is an interior ingrainness of the religious world that I'm lacking. There is a bit of drama as Melville's interior conflict goes on. It would have been interesting to have an outsider or a media person investigating the situation and happens upon the cardinal on the loose. I can see the attempt at humor but it doesn't strike me as funny.
The description of the movie is wrongly understood. This movie is definitely NOT about the relationship of Pope and his therapist. The failed therapist has and episodic side-role. The movie is about a Bishop who cannot take the burden of responsibility and attention that falls upon him. How he struggles and how he finds courage to solve the situation. There is no relationship between a Pope and therapist who have a 10 sentence conversation. Even the other therapist - therapists wife does not have any major impact or role in the movie whatsoever. Okay she kind of connects with the Pope but has more of a satirical role considering the outcome and storyline. Misleading is this introduction. Please change it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved Habemus Papam. It has a highly original plot and it takes place
in a highly unusual environment. Papal elections does not sound as an
intriguing movie setting, but the film is captivating. Who could have
thought that 200 elderly men all dressed in the same way could be so
entertaining?! But they are! The casting is excellent; everyone has a
face and an individuality. I am especially thankful for the casting
choice for the lead character, played by the great Michel Piccoli, and
"il portavoce", played by my favorite Polish actor Jerzy Sztur (I was
so happy to see him inhabit an Italian movie screen so comfortably).
Michel Piccoli's presence expresses perfectly the humanity and the
philosophical aspect of his character. And Jerzy Sztur lights up the
scene as a perfect comical actor.
And yet despite its unusual setting, the film deals with the classical plot of a person out of his own element. And as in every mistaken identity story, the journey into the unknown turns out to be a journey to oneself. You leave behind the familiar and you find the indispensable. Here, the Pope incognito roams the streets of Rome and gradually learns something important about himself.
At the same time, as Pope enters Rome, Rome enters Vatican. This happens through introduction of laypersons into the sanctum sactorum of Vatican, such as the psychologist (who brings with him not only atheism, but also the ball game) and the Swiss guard officer (who introduces the cardinals to the popular music).
I liked the nice small touches throughout the movie, like the fact that the Pope had a dream of becoming an actor in his youth (just like John Paul II), or the Chekhov's play Seagull serving as a pivotal reference on realization that you might have wasted your life, or the imperturbable portavoce losing his face and cursing in Polish
In general, it's an elegant comedy that combines philosophy with laughter and offers life's wisdom that not only Popes will find useful.
P.S. And speaking of Popes, Benedict XVI resigned a year after this movie was released, so
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Papacy and its institutions have attracted film makers in many
different ways. The Vatican or its clones have been used as sets and
stage for many movies in genres ranging from historical movies to crazy
comedies. Nanni Moretti's 'Habemus Papam' tries to be more and
different. It tries to say something important about the burden of
supreme office of the Catholic Church, while telling a story that
hesitates between social satire and comedy of situations.
A pope is dead, and a new pope needs to be elected. The college of cardinals gets together, doors close, cardinals start the election process. After a few inconclusive rounds, cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli) is the unexpected winner. White smoke. The pope is to be announced and should bless the crowds gathered in the piazza in front of the San Pietro. However, there is a problem. The new pope seems to have second thoughts. The burden of responsibility? Stage fear? A shrink (Nanni Moretti himself), the best money can buy, is called in help. And then the pope runs away. Maybe he is looking to get back to his secret vocation for acting in theater, repressed in childhood? Maybe he will be convinced to get back, after revisiting his responsibilities?
The premises are exceptional for a very interesting film, maybe for more than one. This is actually the problem with 'Habeamus Papam'. Nanni Moretti seems to not have decided which film to make. The characters comedy with the shrink trying to psycho-analyze the pope, and the bunch of semi-idiots with teenager behaviors which seem to compose the cardinals crowd? The situation farce where a member of the guard plays the shadow of the pope to mask the fact that the head of the Catholic church just ran away to try to face real life? The drama of the man facing a huge burden and questioning whether he is ready to undertake it, doubled by the conflict between life as it happens and the deformed reality lived by priests? Each of these succeed to some extent, especially the later due to the superb acting of Michel Piccoli. The ensemble does not work as one movie.
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