Pope Fiction: Habemus Papam

habemuspapammorettiSeeings how a new pope was roped, I felt it was fitting to watch a movie last night that I’ve been meaning to watch for some time. An interesting story about the conclave electing a cardinal that refuses the position. Does he see light through his burden? Does he simply run away? how does the conclave deal with the situation, knowing they can’t do anything till his issue is resolved.

Michel Piccoli plays Cardinal Melville, an old soul who suddenly becomes distraught, as it hits him that becoming the pope is too great a responsibility. He panics and hides, has no answer for why he feels this way yet he just does.

They enlist the help of a psychoanalyst played by Nanni Moretti, hoping that the now pope can be snapped out of his mental state. The arrival of Moretti is probably where the movie gets interesting, but at the same time, points out the movies biggest flaw.

When Moretti arrives, it’s his job to figure out his patient. Before he begins, he asks a nearby Cardinal a series of questions of what he can and can’t ask. The Cardinal shoots down all of them. You as the viewer are suddenly given the fact that you’re not supposed to know anything about Melville. In-fact as soon as he’s elected pope, they simply get rid of his name and will only be known as Il papa. Moretti’s character is now simply stuck in the Vatican for no reason, against his will, because nobody is allowed to leave until the pope addresses the people.

Melville then runs away feeling like he’s got so much to think about, when you could argue that he probably doesn’t. But they take you on a journey with a old man who is at a loss of words and thought.

It’s not like it’s all bad, there’s a sub-plot in which he’s always loved theatre. In fact, that’s probably the only thing you get to know about the guy. He’s even memorized a play word for word, an instant favorite as it was a play that his sister performed in long ago. It’s amazing after all this time, such a thing with sentimental value stays with him, when he seems nothing more than an empty slate.

I don’t want to knock this movie, because it’s actually quite good, they just don’t really do anything with the main character. The bulk of the movie’s greatness, and humor, is with the psychoanalyst and the cardinals. They wait patiently in the living quarters of the Vatican praying for the pope to show some life. What’s great is how the psychoanalyst apeases himself in a building with nothing to really do. This is where the quirky-ness of characters takes center stage, as they have no one to play off but themselves. Involving Card games, banter, and a Volleyball tournament that they hope will lift the pope’s spirit. You get so much life out of the absurdity and willingness with each Cardinal just wanting their choice of pope to not be in vain. They’re hopeless and entertaining, and Oceania pulls through a little at the end.

I don’t want to give away the rest of it, but I feel like it’s too short of a character study sitting idly beside a light hearted drama. It’s serious story beats feel few and far between. The ensemble of this movie is solid and worth watching, even if I feel there is just no resolve to whatever problem it is, by the end of the movie.

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