Monday, December 2, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Two Popes

The Two Popes
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Released November 27, 2019

There are few people in the world with a degree of influence anywhere near that of the pope. The leader of the Catholic Church is revered by many in his religion, and is chosen by secret ballot in a closed ceremony by cardinals from around the world. As the figurehead of a faith and a symbol to many others from different spheres, the pope is responsible for setting policies and determining modern interpretations of classical texts and beliefs. How one gets to that position of power isn’t set, and, especially in the case of the current person holding the role, not wanting it can be the most important reason for selection.

Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins) of Germany campaigns and is elected Pope Benedict following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, eclipsing unexpected support for Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) of Argentina at the papal conclave. After his papacy is rocked by scandal in the Church, Pope Benedict summons Bergoglio to Vatican City. Bergoglio is set on retiring and seeks permission from the pope, while Benedict has other ideas for a man with whom he agrees on almost nothing. Their time together helps them to reveal plenty about each other and how their differing visions of faith might be able to coexist.

This film’s clever title reveals the fact that Bergoglio is none other than Pope Francis, who was Benedict’s successor. Seeing the two figures in such close proximity to one another and with few barriers between them as they share their thoughts and views is immensely rewarding and enlightening. Extensive flashbacks to formative moments in Bergoglio’s career, which feature actor Juan Minujín in the role, are informative but do detract from this film’s greater strength as a two-man showpiece.

Pryce is a respected actor with prominent film roles in many projects, including “Brazil” and “Pirates of the Carribean,” and hopefully this subtle tour de force will earn him cinematic accolades to go along with his existing Tony Awards. He paints a sympathetic but honest portrait of a man haunted by his failures and troubled by the future. Hopkins delivers as well, complementing Pryce’s interpretation with his own hard exterior that gradually reveals an occasionally warm interior. Together, the two are magnificent, leading a film that’s light, entertaining, and very enjoyable, creating an accessible entry point into the lives and minds of two people who have held this most auspicious office.


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