CINEMA: Here’s Your Pope, What’s Your Hurry?

We Have a Pope (Habemus Papum)

(Dir. by Nanni Moretti, 2011, Italian, 102 minutes)

The latest film by independent Italian Director Nanni Moretti, We Have a Pope, is a lightweight farce that pokes fun at the isolated and archaic ways of the Roman Catholic Church but never manages to really open a crack to let the light of day shine on any of the more serious issues facing the institution in the modern world. The film opens with the venerable College of Cardinals filing quietly past the press to sequester themselves in conclave and elect a new Pontiff. During the first round of voting, Moretti makes the audience privy to the cardinal’s thoughts as each one begs to be passed over for the lifelong, responsibility laden position of titular head of the church. After several rounds of voting, the college calls on Cardinal Melville, the meekest amongst them, played with wonderful simplicity by Michel Piccoli. Waiting in the wings prior to addressing the multitudes awaiting his appearance, the new Pontiff panics at the thought of the commitment he is about to make and flees to his chambers. Unable to convince him that his appointment is ordained, his papal secretary calls on an atheistic psychoanalyst, played my Moretti himself, to help the newly minted pontiff cope. Forbidden to know the pontiff’s name, or even to see him alone, the psychoanalyst fails and the Pope escapes to meander the streets of Rome in an innocent and childlike search for self-realization. Wishing to maintain secrecy, the Vatican sequesters the psychoanalyst who then serves as the main comedic element as he teaches the cardinals about, drugs, cards and volleyball in attempt to entertain himself while they, and the world, wait for the new pope to reveal himself. Overly cute, gently told and unusually respectful of the institution, the film satirizes without any bite and never lifts the veil on the real problems facing the Catholic Church. I think today’s audience understands that the church as an institution remains insulated from the global problems of modern culture. What they don’t understand is the hypocrisy evident in the news every day. If you want to see a light hearted comedy, have at it. But don’t expect anything compelling or critical from Moretti latest effort. — DAVID CORBO