Movie review: ‘We Have a Pope’

Thoughtful but funny in a low-key way, Nanni Moretti’s “We Have a Pope” examines the idea of papal succession through a fictional story that reminds us just how daunting the job itself must be.

After the death of the old pope in this story, when the College of Cardinals gathers in conclave to consider who should succeed as head of the Catholic Church, Moretti reads the minds of the various cardinals as they wait for the vote-count to begin – and their thoughts are universally the same: “Please don’t choose me.”

Eventually, the conclave settles on elderly Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), who seems shocked at his selection. He is so shocked, in fact, that he blurts out that he can’t do the job.

So even though the puff of white smoke has been sent up, signaling that a pope has been chosen, the new pontiff does not appear on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where the assembled faithful await their first glimpse of the new pope. He refuses to accept.

The cardinals decide to bring in a psychologist (Moretti himself), to try to get the new pope to open up and explain his fear. One problem: The cardinals won’t leave doctor and patient alone to talk. They insist on guarding the new pope, encircling the two men, doctor and patient, in a large room, as the shrink tries to get the obviously unhappy older man to open up.

In short order, the new pope has used an outing with the Vatican’s press secretary to make his getaway. Because the name of the new pope has not yet been announced, Cardinal Melville can still wander the city in his own clothes, ruminating on his future and trying to come to terms with what God’s plan seems to mean for him.

Moretti needles the press, particularly TV journalists who cover the Vatican. While the appointment of a new pope is a sacred moment, the TV reporters, desperate for news, blather on about it as though talking about the movements and machinations of a movie star, even as they are herded and manipulated by the wily press secretary. [More]


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