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I have now seen both the CBS and ABC versions of the story of Karol Wojtyla. After seeing the ABC version, and not even aware yet that CBS had a biography planned, I was ready to say this movie would get Emmy nominations. Now I'm not so sure, but it was still good, even if only a limited number of scenes from the Pope's life are shown.
This movie does a much better job than the CBS miniseries in showing us the life of young Karol, or Lolek, as they called him. The boy was effectively portrayed by Jasper Harris and then Ignas Survila. We see his loving parents who were obviously a great influence, and Lolek's special relationship with his brother Edmund. Several events, some tragic, apparently played important roles in shaping the man who became Pope. Paulius Ignatavius did a fine job as Edmund Wojtyla. Inga Sakalauskaité impressed as Emilia (Karol's mother), and Petar Goranov was wonderful as Karol's father.
Karol is shown doing theater as an adult, and he has a girlfriend, but he feels God's call and has to make a choice. Menawhile, the Nazis are invading his homeland. Karol has numerous challenges to face and he handles them well. Once he becomes a priest, his superiors see his abilities and take advantage of them, giving him more and more responsibilities. At each stage of advancement, Karol is achieving more than most would at his age. Karol cannot believe what he is being asked to do, yet he accepts all challenges given him. Both movies show what can be described as a Christmas miracle, though there are differences which make me unsure if it was actually the same event.
One day, when a new Pope is needed ... well, we all know what's going to happen. Amazingly, though, the death of Paul VI and the election of John Paul I is left out of this movie.
John Paul II is shown as a very caring and very moral man who needs to be with the people, a man who stands up to challenges as difficult as the Soviet Union. He is also shown as flawed, believing he has sinned, in an incident not shown in the CBS miniseries. Hard to believe this man sinned, right?
This movie also goes into more detail than the CBS version with the Pope's visit with Mehmet Ali Acga.
Despite the limited number of scenes from the Pope's life, the ones we do see include outstanding writing and performances. Well, perhaps "outstanding" isn't quite the word to one who has seen the CBS production, but this movie certainly was impressive. We see enough to inspire us to live better and to know what it really means to serve.
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