Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 10 Best Films Of 2001 The 10 Best Films Of 2001 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' The 10 Best Films Of 2000 The 10 Best Films Of 2000 "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'We Have A Pope' An Unlikely Dramedy About Finding Faith, But Losing Yourself

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist April 3, 2012 at 11:58AM

Early word on Nanni Moretti's "We Have A Pope" was that it was more or less in the vein of "The King's Speech." Well, perhaps in broad strokes, but unlike Tom Hooper's wildly overrated Oscar-winner, Moretti finds more depth, complex emotion and goes for a much braver, uneasy ending for his film. "We Have A Pope" is less about a newly elected Pope overcoming his fears to serve the church, but more about the expectations we put on these figures and in its own quiet way, it questions -- without condemning -- the Vatican's staunch rules that keep much of the higher cardinals and officials out of reach from the everyday world.
1

We Have A Pope
The following is a reprint of our review from the Cannes Film Festival.

Early word on Nanni Moretti's "We Have A Pope" was that it was more or less in the vein of "The King's Speech." Well, perhaps in broad strokes, but unlike Tom Hooper's wildly overrated Oscar-winner, Moretti finds more depth and complex emotion, and goes for a much braver, uneasy ending for his film. "We Have A Pope" is less about a newly elected Pope overcoming his fears to serve the church, and more about the expectations we put on these figures, and in its own quiet way, it questions -- without condemning -- the Vatican's staunch rules that keep much of the higher cardinals and officials out of reach from the everyday world.

When the film opens we follow the 108 cardinals gathered together as they enter the papal conclave to make the vote on a new Bishop of Rome who will become the Pope. As they gather round to cast their votes, we hear their inner thoughts, and one thing becomes clear: none of them want the job. It's a huge job, and a tremendous responsibility, and as most are elderly and comfortable with their routines in their respective parts of the world, not many are eager to find their life uprooted. The first round of votes seem to point to Gregoire (who the media believes is the frontrunner) getting elected but in a final vote, the tide shifts totally and to the unknown Melville.

We Have A Pope

He is rightly stunned. As his colleagues surround him, he officially accepts the position. Officials hurry to present him to the crowd and just as the moment arrives, the new Pope exclaims in anguish and runs back into the nooks and crannies of the Vatican. Unable not only to face the throng waiting to see their new Pontiff, Melville himself is unconvinced that God has given him the tools and faculties he needs to do the job. He's simply not ready. It's an unprecedented event in the history of the Vatican, and desperate times call for desperate measures, so a psychoanalyst is called in to try and help the Pope. The key word here is try.

Played by Moretti, taking a role in his own film, the psychoanalyst tries as best he can to get to the root of the problem. Unfortunately, he can't be left alone with the Pope to truly talk out their problems. Psychology is seen as being counter to the teachings of the church (a subconscious and a soul can't coexist, it seems) and it doesn't matter anyway as he is constantly surrounded by the other cardinals, their first and only meeting is superficial and not very helpful. Asking why he was even bothered to be called up, he is simply told that he was considered "the best" in his field. So, what do they do? They seek out the second best, who just happens to be Moretti's wife.

We Have A Pope

As the Pope still hasn't been seen by the public and due to the sensitive nature of what is going on, Moretti is remanded to the Vatican grounds to hang with the cardinals until everything is sorted out. Then, in secret, the Pope is taken into town to see the second best psychoanalyst. This session is much more successful mostly because the Pope can talk a bit more freely (but still can't reveal who he is). But getting what he can off his chest does wonders, and when he leaves the analyst's office he decides to take a brief walk, and uses the opportunity to shake the security detail on him and escape into the streets.

Back at the Vatican, the Pope's flight is kept secret. Some of the film's more humorous moments come from the absurdity of the charade staged to convince the cardinals, and everyone else, that the Pope is recovering in his apartments, saying his prayers, and empty trays of food are brought forth to prove that his appetite is vigorous. Meanwhile, the cloistered psychoanalyst draws closer to the cardinals, playing cards with them, discussing faith, and eventually, he forms teams and organizes a volleyball tournament under the guise that the Pope could use the show of strength from his cardinals (though one suspects that boredom is quickly settling in for the civilian doctor, who would like to leave). And while all this is happening, the Pope is among the citizens who have no idea who he is, as he tries to work out if actually being the Pontiff is something he wants, or is capable of doing, and though unspoken, he wonders if turning to faith for his whole life has fulfilled him.

We Have A Pope

So let's circle back to that "The King's Speech" comparison. Both hinge on major political figures who are stymied in some way from fulfilling their duties. In Hooper's film, it's a stutter, but in Moretti's film, its nothing less than a crisis of faith. Not in God, but in himself. "We Have A Pope" ends with a speech, but it's not the rousing, crowd-pleasing, tear-jerking, let's-go-get-'em stuff of "The King's Speech." Instead, it's bracing, honest and even a little shocking, and it ends the film on a question, but not for the audience. The question is pointed directly at the church, and more or less asks if total devotion to God is worth abandoning other more Earthly passions for, and if so, if that trade-off is even right or fair.

The key stroke to the success of Moretti's film is that the thematic push-and-pull rides under the surface of what is a very often funny film. The laughs are frequent, but never mean. Moretti isn't interested in condemning the church, or judging the choices of his characters in the past, but only asks if those decisions were fruitful. "We Have A Pope" succeeds where "The King's Speech" didn't, because the stakes are much more personal and real, and when the film ends, Moretti realizes that one speech is only just the beginning of a life unraveled that is slowly coming back together. [B]

This article is related to: We Have a Pope, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates