Two Popes – more than just a puff of white smoke!
This is just a brilliant movie on Netflix and honestly my love for the Catholic Church aside, you would find it really hard to hate this film even if you were a Church critic. This one is a gem on the eve of Christmas and a perfect gift to yourself.
‘The Two Popes’ is a film that has inspiring dialogues that brim with witty one liners and warmth. The story is superbly told, wrapped in a theology that transcends religion. Starring two powerhouse actors, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce the film is a sumptuous conversation between two colleagues, Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who later became Pope Francis and their firm yet unusual friendship.
The story is obviously fictional but spun beautifully. While its framework has a historical core it can’t just be written off as merely a ‘good story’ because many of its dialogues have been taken from the Pontiffs themselves though with a lot of artistic license if not entirely out of context. One would never be privy to the confession of a layperson let alone a Pope or even more the workings of a conclave that elects a Pope. But one can’t deny the research woven into this movie which makes the whole movie believable and flow seamlessly.
It would be hard to tell if parts of the four major dialogues between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis spanning seventy per cent of the film ever took place, but if one is an avid Vatican or Papal watcher, it would be very hard for one to be a disbelieve that some form of exchange on these matters never happened.
To site an example, I myself was taken aback when the movie focuses on the first few moments after the election of Pope Francis. Courteously rejecting the mozetta and the papal pectoral cross, Pope Francis says to Guido Marini, “the days of carnival are over.” One would have thought these words were used by the script writer to cause some interest value to the dialogue. However, this very scenario and these very words were narrated to me by an American Cardinal who participated in the conclave that elected Pope Francis, when he visited Mumbai.
At the heart of the movie are the souls of two Popes, now bared open. One holds and teaches the Catholic faith as it always has and one who desires to open the doors that Vatican II set out to open, albeit with a little more force. The Movie does not shirk away from addressing the tough and honest questions that both Popes faced, both privately and publicly. However the sensitivity with which the movie reels out makes this movie a successful audience pleaser.
This film transcends one’s personal feelings towards the Church. It is powerfully written with superb acting and the sets are brilliant. I was very privileged to see the room of tears adjoining the Sistine Chapel some years ago and but for a desk that was there, the rest of the room is spectacularly recreated.
While the movie has an obvious bias towards Pope Francis one cannot but admire how honestly the heart of Pope Benedict is presented. This is Bromance at its best! Go treat yourself and set aside two hours of happy viewing.
Fr Warner D’Souza
NB. For those from the Archdiocese of Bombay, look for Cardinal Oswald Gracias one hour and forty nine minutes into the film