polski
Festival Daily
30 July 2011
Day 9 - Roman Holiday

Nanni Moretti has made a film about the Pope. But anyone expecting a splenetic attack on the Vatican may be surprised by a this gentle comedy that, for the most part, is content to poke fun.


Moretti ha spent most of his career battling Italy's establishment, as a filmmaker, the Artistic Director of the Turin Film Festival or an outraged citizen. He has ridiculed the country's political system and the hypocrisy of the corrupt in power. In particular, he has vented his rage against Silvio Berlusconi, as was seen in his 2006 film The Caiman. It railed against the man who, for so many, has come to symbolise everything that is wrong - politically, socially, culturally and, in more recent times, morally - with Italy's ruling elite.

The Vatican has also come under fire from Moretti, which is why We Have A Pope's tone is so odd. The film's opening section, featuring the selection of a new Pope finds Moretti at his funniest (and shows exactly why he is a greater comedian and satirist than fellow Italian Roberto Begnini). The humour is gentle. There is no attempt at reality, but Moretti does succeed in questioning why anyone would want to occupy such a position.

The main thrust of the film finds Michel Piccoli's cardinal become the compromise choice after an unsuccessful round of voting. The relief of finding a new pontiff is soon mitigated by his unwillingness to accept the role, first hiding in his chambers, then taking off for the streets of Rome. Like Audrey Hepburn's princess in the classic 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, the Pope-in-waiting just wants to disappear amongst the Italian capital's populace. But whereas she found her perfect getaway in the company of Gregory Peck's journalist, Piccoli's character finds solace in a psychoanalyst's chair.

Piccoli revels in the role of the reluctant pontiff, transforming an initially comedic role into one of pathos. Moreover, it questions the motives of anyone who would want to take on such a role. Ultimately, the film could be seen to ask whether such positions, with whom so much power lies, whether it is religious or politicial, should only ever be occupied by those who do not seek them.

If the film opens as a gentle comedy, Morretti couldn't allow the film to close on the same note. We are left to wonder about the role of such a powerful figure in modern times, particularly one occupied by a man who, for so many years, would have lived at some remove from any semblance of ordinary life. Though it is not so radical as to offend even the staunchest of Catholics, The Pope's public address underpins the need for change. The sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the order to it's core, it's outdated and, for some, reprehensible stance on contraception and safe sex, and its embarrassing approach to gender politics, have all begged questions about the Vatican's relevance as a barometer of daily life. Moretti's reluctant Pontiff is a very human creation. Devotion to one's faith is one thing. But taking on the role of God's emissary on earth? It's not a role many people would pray for.


Ian Haydn Smith
International Film Guide


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