Thursday, November 10, 2011


MovieMov: Italian Cinema Now
Greenbelt 3, Cinema 5

This story about a newly elected Pope who suffers an anxiety attack had me in stitches. Being a Roman Catholic, anything and everything about the Vatican and the Pope in particular is sacred. It is blasphemous to even be thinking such irreverent thoughts about the Holy Father. But a cleverly written plot peppered with small doses of laughter at the expense of the Vatican would certainly not hurt my spirituality.

This comedy by Nanni Moretti does not intend to mock the Vatican or the Pope. In fact, it did a good job in portraying human emotions. Being the head of the Catholic Church is a gargantuan task that most Cardinals silently pray not to be picked as the new Pope. The Holy Father is a man weighed down by the immensity of this burden. He must reconcile human fears with spiritual responsibilities, and he is drawn equally to the life of the world and the life of the mind. This was realistically projected in a vivid scene where the camera pans away to a wider angle to show him as a lone figure against the massive Sistine Chapel frescoes.

Michel Piccoli as the newly elected Pope was excellent in essaying such a difficult role. He imbues his Pope with a level of grief, disappointment and lost in deep contemplation. An accidental holy man who is confused and trapped by responsibilities way beyond his capabilities.

So while the newly elected pontiff roams around (like a runaway bride) the streets of Rome in the hopes of discovering himself, the Conclave of Cardinals are still sequestered within the Sistine Chapel. How they occupy their valuable time is where most of the laughter is drawn from during the movie. The volleyball competition was hilarious. Most of the laughter is brought about by the sheer absurdity of the entire premise. To show deeply religious Cardinals as having fun as opposed to the way they are portrayed in public is really funny in my books.

"Habemus Papam" wants to emphasise the human consequences of a great religious office, and in that it succeeds. Certainly, the finale, when it comes, is strangely shocking and has far more deeper implications than what meets the eye. But it did make a valuable point by creating quite an impact on the audience who had certainly stopping laughing by then.

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