At a time when the Catholic Church is under scrutiny, the timing of this film is impeccable. From priest misdemeanours in schools to controversial habitation outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Moretti’s film, Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope) and his dealing with the issue of religious ‘employment’ could not be more topical in the UK.
And then, religion aside, we’ve all experienced a moment of personal disbelief; a lack of faith in oneself. Can I really do what is expected of me? Am I a leader or a follower?
The film opens with a new Pope being elected in Rome. This new Pope, masterfully played by the legendary Michel Piccoli, has been elected by a vast number of cardinals from all over the world and, rather painfully, we witness him suffer a massive crisis of confidence, just at the moment he is called onto St Peter’s balcony to meet the crowds. We immediately feel a great sense of fondness for him as he faces an overwhelming role of heading a congregation of over a billion. It is with this sympathy and understanding that we allow his character to take over the narrative of the film.
Aside from the Pope’s escape (from both the Vatican and from the responsibility at large) and his ineffective sessions with a renowned psychoanalyst (played by Moretti himself), I was curious as to whether this film is a direct attack on the Catholic Church in Italy. Or is Moretti mocking faith per se? Less political than earlier works by Moretti, the film certainly backs up theories that the celebrated director, actor and scriptwriter is fascinated by religion and the establishment in equal measure.
Towards the end of the film I wondered if the film began as a comedy and encountered tragedy on route? There were certainly farcical moments, such as the cardinals’ volley-ball tournament, but I also found myself laughing out loud at the facial expressions of these holy men faced with their virtually imprisoned atheist psychoanalyst.
However, it is Piccoli’s delightful performance as the Pope who discovers his freedom and avoids peer pressure and forced duty which evolves as the winning formula of this film.
WE HAVE A POPE, A FILM BY NANNI MORETTI, RELEASE DATE: 2ND DEC 2011