How Do You Say No to God?

You don’t have to be a Catholic to be a fan of Pope Francis. In one short year this pious, humble rock star has reinvigorated a dying Church in the eyes of billions around the globe. But what would have happened if he’d refused the job? To commemorate the Pontiff’s 1st anniversary, Norma’s Streaming Picks is taking a humorous look at what would happen if he, well, ran away from home. We Have A Pope is a charming and poignant story of just that situation as seen through the lens of renowned Italian actor/director Nanni Moretti.

SnapShot Plot

In a brilliant example of “if these walls could talk,” we are present in the Sistine Chapel during the secret voting rituals of the College of Cardinals as they are attempting to elect a new Pontiff. What I have always wondered about is exactly what’s going through these men’s minds as the short-listed names are methodically counted out, time after excruciating time. It must be such a heady mixture of ambition and dread, or at least it is in the film. When they finally have their Man, all seems to be resolved until it comes time to announce him to the world, at which point he breaks down, utterly panic-stricken and crippled with fear. The Vatican authorities are at a loss as to how to handle such a ‘modern’ emotional reaction, so they bring in a psychiatrist from the outside world to consult the poor man – quickly – and prop him up to assume the role he was ‘destined’ to inhabit. Oh, and of course this entire procedure, however long it takes, must be executed in the utmost secrecy. . . no problem for an institution literally steeped in secrets over the course of centuries. Michel Piccoli is perfectly cast as the beleaguered Cardinal Melville, the “Pope-elect” and director Nanni Moretti is charming as the agnostic psychiatrist, Professor Brezzi, who has other ideas for the Cardinals as they await the rehabilitation of their new spiritual leader.




Parting Shot

This film reminded me of the 1985  movie, Saving Grace, in which Tom Conti plays a young pope who sneaks out of the Vatican, has an incognito adventure which restores his faith, and then returns to re-assume his papacy. A much more earnest film than the one here. We Have A Pope is as funny as it is moving. In the hands of director Nanni Moretti, Michel Piccoli manages to convey the tortured soul of a life missed without resorting to easy melodrama. Instead, we see a simple man who, in the end, knows himself better than what the world keeps telling him he has to be. And of course, with that wisdom comes a good deal of pain and sacrifice. Nanni Moretti couldn’t have known how prescient this charming movie would be, considering that not even two years later, the then Pope Benedict would shock the world with his abruptly announced resignation. Did he see this movie, I wonder?

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  • Giovanna says:

    I missed this post! I’d love to see this movie. Gotta love zany clergymen.

  • Debbie says:

    Sounds good. Where do you find these obscure movies? You are a master movie digger. New releases aren’t always the best releases, so we truly appreciate and enjoy your picks.

    • Norma says:

      Thanks for your supportive feedback! Sometimes I feel like a lonely fisherman trolling the water for hours as I wade through so many titles & trailers, but it’s so great when I discover something worth watching. Very glad you’re out there, Debbie!

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