Soul man – We Have a Pope review

We Have a Pope – Starring Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti and Margherita Buy. Directed by Nanni Moretti. Originally published December 19, 2011. By Simon Miraudo.

We Have a Pope arrives on DVD in Australia April 25, 2012.

Ever wondered what goes on inside the Vatican when the cardinals from around the world assemble – like some sort of holy Voltron – to choose their next commander in chief? Nanni Moretti’s new film We Have a Pope attempts to offer us an insight the hallowed decision making process that turned a Wojtyła into a John Paul and a Ratzinger into a Benedict.

In Moretti’s flick, the hundred-plus cardinals are ushered into a Papal conclave, during which they must remain isolated from the outside world until they agree on the recently-deceased Pope’s successor (think 108 Angry Holy-Men). The media believes there to be three major contenders for the role, and the deadlocked votes only confirm the trio’s popularity. But this is the job no one seems to want, with almost everyone praying to be overlooked by their colleagues. A deal is seemingly struck off screen, and suddenly the votes pour in for an underdog (Michel Piccoli) to take the throne.

Before they can even gas up the Popemobile, the newly-elected and totally-unsuspecting Bishop of Rome is struck by an epic case of cold feet, and suffers a nervous breakdown. Enter a wry psychoanalyst – played by Moretti, who gives himself all the best lines – to diagnose the old man. It’s a tough gig, and, in accordance with those stringent Catholic laws, he’ll have to live in the Vatican with all the other hand-wringing bishops until the Pope can muster the courage to pop his head out of his bedroom and introduce himself to the masses waiting outside. There are frequent references to Chekhov throughout, and although there’s no gun in the first act, the conclusion is inevitable.

We Have a Pope brings to mind my favourite film from last year’s Perth Festival line-up, Lourdes, which similarly skewered religion and blind faith whilst also affectionately painting a portrait of the people who devote their lives to such causes. Moretti’s picture doesn’t match the highs of Lourdes however. It’s not as successful a satire, comedy, or melodrama. In fact, it’s a bit of a tonal mishmash. Still, We Have a Pope is a nice allegory about the dangers of olde-timey traditions. The new Pontiff freaks out about having so much responsibility on his shoulders, and fears he’s not strong enough to lead his flock through the terrors of a modern world. Meanwhile, the cardinals keep their head in the sand and trap themselves within the walls of the Vatican, obsessed with rules and technicalities written centuries ago, abandoning all the confused believers awaiting their decision.

3.5/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

We Have a Pope arrives on DVD in Australia April 25, 2012.

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