We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam)
Director: Nanni Moretti Cast: Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti, Jerzy Stuhr Genre: Comedy Drama Country of Origin: Italy 2011 Official Selection Cannes 2011 Language: Italian with English subtitles 102 mins. Rating: **** 'Visually stunning, a low key film with great heart and warmth giving a sense of the Vatican's pomp, ceremony, tradition and politics with Michele Picolli, that 86 year old giant of European cinema bringing dignity to the role'.
World wide headlines of financial irregularities or should I say greed and arrogance in the home of the Reformation and the Vatican taking action against Germany's luxury loving Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop of Limburg led me to being asked to revisit 'We Have a Pope', Nanni Moretti's 2011 Cannes Official Selection which received luke warm reviews when it opened in the UK.
Melville (Michele Piccoli0), a French cardinal suddenly finds himself elected as the next Pope, a compromise choice. This isn't what he anticipated, he's just a well loved old man. When presented to the faithful gathered in St.Peter's Square, Melville freaks out, it's more than stage fright, panic sets in - he doesn't want the job. To prevent a world wide crisis, the Vatican's spokesman and trouble shooter, Il Portavoce (Jerzy Stuhr) calls in a psychiatrist played by Nanni Moretti to find out what's the problem with the Pope but don't mention sex, mother, fantasies or dreams and remember 'the soul and the unconscious can't co-exist' - that's got to be an opening for some fun from Nanni Moretti, the political satirist and winner of the 2001 Palme d'Or for 'The Son's Room'.
'We Have a Pope' isn't a mainstream comedy. I wouldn't even bill it as a comedy. The history of this all-too-powerful and secretive state makes you instinctively look for savage humour, political satire, sex scandals and the lust for power. It's not there but in its place is a well written low key film with great heart and warmth.
Melville or do I say the Pope escapes his CIA-like minders and anonymously wonders the streets of Rome enjoying the simple everyday pleasures he hasn't experienced for years and you develop a sense of Melville's disappointment with his life. As a young man he drempt of being an actor and there are some surreal moments with a theatre troupe rehearsing Chekov's 'The Seagull'.
Visually it's stunning opening with newsreels of John Paul's 2005 funeral and the Vatican's inner chambers are brilliantly repeated by Paola Bizzarri and captured with an assured eye by cinematographer Alessandro Pesci.
Michele Picolli, that 86 year old giant of European cinema and favoured actor of the noted atheist, Luis Bunuel brings dignity to the role.
You get a sense of the Vatican's pomp, ceremony, tradition and politics. The cardinals are seen as a 'jolly bunch' rather than preening individuals lusting for power and an 'easy approach' is taken towards this powerful state within a state.
Too respectful, but that comes as no surprise. On a second viewing I warmed to this gentle and amusing film that's got heart and warmth.
Martin Luther must be chuckling at the thought of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst and his confident Franz Kaspar travelling on Easy Jet, catching the local bus and munching on a cheese sandwich. I believe that the bishop's on a 'spiritual time of recovery'. There's always a place for humour!
DVD released by SODA Pictures 2nd. April 2012