The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019): USA| UK | Italy

A film reviewed by Alejandra Melchor. Viewed at AFI Feat 2019.

Sitting down in the Chinese Theater for the gala event of The Two Popes I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure how to perceive a film that had the backdrop of the Vatican and controversy. And I wondered humor would be successfully Incorporated.  I was also reluctant to see the film as a whole. As I am now a non practicing catholic and had turned my back on the church as a whole.  This film has made me rethink my position on the church, and also on politics. 

Director Fernando Meirelles, witter Anthony McCarthy, actors Anthony Hopkins, and Jonathan Pryce, create a powerful and quite enjoyable film. Anthony Hopkins plays Pope emeritus Benedict the 16th.  Jonathan Pryce portrays cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis’ name before being elected. Jonathan Pryce may be currently remembered for his role in Game of Thrones as the High Sparrow. Pryce has admitted that he based his role initially as the High Sparrow on Pope Francis. Before the film began those in the theater had the opportunity to listen to the director and both actors speak. “The film …is about tolerance. Let’s just talk and listen and see what we can do to solve these [world] problems, instead of passing judgment before anything has gone before a jury. ” Said Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

The film begins with news footage of the death Pope John Pall the 2nd.  Then one sees the inner working of the College of Cardinals. Pope Benedict 16th (Sir Anthony Hopkins) is elected. And from there we know the story.

However, in the shadows of the scandal Pope Benedict meet with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to discuss the future of the church.  These two men, who both had a competently different view of were the church need to go, sat down, talked, listened to each other, and found common ground. In the end it seems Benedict passed on the reins of the papacy to cardinal Jorge.

Even though this is a fictional retelling and not all that took place may be accurate, I believe the spirit is there. In reality Pope Benedict didn’t just decide overnight to retire, and that is well depicted in the film. In the film Pope Benadict says “…let us talk like brothers.” When the two popes were side by side for the first time in 2016 Pope Francis said “We are brothers.” As both kneeled side by side and prayed.

There is also grate visual symbolism through out the film. There’s a scene in the film where after the two respective parties have finished a conversation, they go their separate ways. One can note from the eagle eye view, that Pope Benedict’s side had more room. In that way symbolizing where the power currently lies.  Cesar Charlone did an amazing job in his work of capturing the environment, and presenting what would normally be internal dialogue as footage. 

It was nice to see a depiction of Pope Francis while he was still cardinal. Nice to see his humbleness. I remember watching the news that afternoon when Pope Francis was elected. When he emerged someone commented, “I bet he didn’t expect to become Pope. I bet he was planning to just go home that evening and read a nice book.” 

This film will be available on Netflix 20th of December. Even if you are not religious I encourage all to watch it.  And hopefully you will take a message away from this film along the lines of tolerance, understanding, and open conversation with out judgment.   

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