Director: Nanni Moretti
Screenplay: Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo & Federica Pontremoli
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Jerzy Stuhr, Renato Scarpa
Producers: Jean Labadie, Nanni Moretti & Domenico Procacci
Country: Italy & France
Running Time: 102 min
Year: 2011
BBFC Certificate: PG

Catholicism has been in the spotlight in recent years due to a number of scandals involving paedophile priests in Ireland and Germany. The furore was not abated despite the pastoral letter written by Pope Benedict XVI in which he expressed ‘shame and remorse’, and there was widespread criticism that the Vatican was reluctant to implement the reforms that many felt were necessary to address the mass cover up that had gone on for decades.

Nanni Moretti’s latest film, We have a Pope, shines a comic light on the inner workings of the Vatican, but there is no mention of the real life upheaval in this lightweight tale. Moretti said in an interview that ‘I did not really care what the Vatican thought’ in response to mild disapproval from the Vatican that it did not represent the real church. ‘[They] must be thanking me for not depicting the real church’. I’m sure that if the film had tackled the subject of paedophile priests head on then the film makers would have experienced difficulty in filming in the Vatican locations, but by ignoring it completely the film becomes pointless and feels like a cop out. What exactly is Moretti trying to say here?

For what it’s worth the plot involves the cardinals inside the Vatican electing the new Pope. Against the odds, unassuming Cardinal Melville is elected by his peers, a task for which he is singularly ill equipped. He doesn’t actually want the job, and as it turns out neither do many of the other Cardinals. We hear their thoughts in voice over praying to God that they are not chosen. Unfortunately the only reason for this mass disinclination for promotion we can infer from the film is a lack of ambition or an unwillingness to break from their cosy existence, rather than a reluctance to be the headman of a church under fire for the cover up of heinous crimes.

As crowds gather outside to cheer on their new Pontiff, Melville shrieks out in anguish and refuses to address the cheering throng below. This unprecedented act causes panic amongst the other Cardinals, who employ the services of a psychoanalyst (played by Moretti himself) to get to the root cause of Melville’s problems. He is hampered by the Cardinals refusal to let him have a one to one session with the new Pope, and by Melville’s reluctance to open up. In order to try to get around this he arranges for them to leave the enclave and meet with another analyst who does not know he’s the Pope, after which he fleas into the city causing panic and a cover up. In order to keep the Cardinals busy while the Pope can be located Moretti’s character organises an interminable volleyball game that pretty much kills any last lingering interest there may have been.

French actor Michel Piccoli is good as the Pope who only ever wanted to act, but that is about the only good thing in it. I really have no idea what Moretti was trying to do with this film. It is not funny or dramatic, insightful or satirical. It is very slow, rather dull and feels like a wasted opportunity.

Review by Damien Beedham

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