Papal Bull? #twopopes #filmreview

Back on the sofa, and another film that slipped through the Le Pard net during the old days of cinema visits. Dog chose a different lap to dribble into while one of our aged cats gave my lap the once over and decided the wooden floor looked more comfy. I rose above the feline slight and focused on the screen.

Films that are based on fact can often become rather lazy pieces, in part because the story arc has been laid out well in advance of the writer’s involvement. They tend to work well when the main players are publicly well known but whose hinterland is as opaque as Boris’ oratory.

So picking up on the tensions at the very pinnacle of the Catholic Church between the ultra conservative Joseph Ratzinger and the liberal supporter of reform Jorge Bergoglio at a time of crisis in that Church and tracing the public actions and pronouncements from Benedict’s elevation to the papacy to his retirement, the arc was a well trodden path.

I’m interested in history, in stories that have a wider impact though this wasn’t one I knew much about. Similarly and of more interest, I knew little of the two men’s back story. What this film did well, in a subtle and engrossing way was to take those known histories and imagine how two opponents could reach a point where they understood they had to help the other to achieve their goals. It was a nuanced portrayal of stubbornness, doubt and duty intertwining, set in the egregious opulence of the Vatican and the Pope’s summer retreat.

How much fact overlaid those interpretations is open to discussion, and, no doubt, liberties on a Michelangelo scale of lily-gilding were taken. But the crisp script in the hands of the consummate talents of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce was never less than engrossing.

If you like your films to have layers and depth, if two hours of talking heads in rococo rooms and topiaried gardens is your bag, then this could be for you. It was for me, even if the cat slept through most of it.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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8 Responses to Papal Bull? #twopopes #filmreview

  1. noelleg44 says:

    Not sure if this would appeal. I am so tired and disgusted by all the church’s sins…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Would probably be interesting, though I know what you mean about history restraining a good narrative arc. Right now my husband and I are watching our way through Dekalog (Polish films)–10 in all, obvi, detailing each of the Ten Commandments. Some are excellent, some less so, and they do stray from strict adherence to the commandment story lines, if you will. We’re also watching old reruns of Simon & Simon episodes just for fun. Hi and low (very low) around here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. M. L. Kappa says:

    I loved this film, even though, as Noelle says, the subject matter did not appeal. However, it was cleverly done and I appreciated the subtlety.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    My closest friend has been urging me to watch this for a while. If I can get that long an attention span I will give it a go. By the way, I paid tribute to you today in my post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Weird but I quite want to see this now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Widdershins says:

    I decided that when I saw this being advertised that I wouldn’t be able to separate the actors performances from the actual horrors perpetrated by the catholic church.

    Liked by 2 people

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