Closing up the laptop, days end, and I turn to television scanning Netflix stopping on a comedy/drama, We Have A Pope by Italian director Nanni Moretti. Now religion is not my cup of tea but curiosity overrules as this movie mimics recent news. The show is about the passing away of the Pope and the election of a new one but with a twist, “what if the new one doesn’t want the job?”
As the show begins the Papal Conclave begins with the cardinals locked away, the camera pans the room and, in English subtitles, the count off begins with each cardinal, as the camera passes by, mumbles to themselves, “Not me, not me.” Then the moment all of Rome and some of the rest of the world awaits, the white smoke and a new Pope, yeah the crowd erupts. However, the new Pope, Melville, has second thoughts and while waiting for his balcony speech suffers a panic attack and decides right there he does not want the responsibilities that go with the job. The real Pope, Benedict XVI sites health reasons, “…because of advanced age…” for stepping down (or did he abdicate) from the life position. So what of other Popes? Well, the only other time this occurred was a way back in 1415 when Gregory XII stepped down to end the Great Western Schism and since then no one else not even for health.
How coincidental to find this movie just when Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down not wanting to do the job any longer or was someone at Netflix playing a hunch? Pope Melville nonchalantly decides a break is needed as he walks with bodyguards to calm down so he ditches them and the 2nd in command then roams Rome searching for himself and what is right : to serve God or himself? During Pope Melville’s sojourn he communicates to number two, (don’t know number two’s true title, lost in translation) “I feel better” which the 2nd in command relays this message to the cardinals, embellishing on it, then with an encouraging smile sells it to the cardinals who buy it hook, line, and sinker. Of all such things to say to such a holy outfit about such a holy person but the exaggeration expands when he explains that Pope Melville is resting in his apartment however, the 2nd in command has placed a look-alike in the Papal apartment so all think he is there. The number two has no idea where in Rome the Pope roams.
Melville takes all day and night to ponder his DILEMA and shows up in a bakery kitchen, rehearsal of a play and dinner with the director and actors which I assume they know him from his days as a cardinal? When walking with the masses and on public transportation no one knows Melville is the Pope because when elected he never appeared on the balcony at the Vatican to speak to those masses. I lost the explanation in the subtitles or it was never there to begin with (this is why I rarely watch movies with subtitles as the words never stay on the screen long enough to digest them and apply to the scene).
After days of waiting the 2nd in command confesses his sin to the cardinals that the Pope was never in the apartment, asks their forgiveness, and then they all search Rome and of course find him as part of the crowd watching the play he saw in rehearsal earlier. The cardinals, dressed in flowing red robes and round, wide brim black hats like a Spanish Inquisition, entered the theater and take the Pope back to the Vatican much to his dismay but not that of the public so patiently waiting outside. It is a good thing they dont have a comfy chair as, “No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition,” Monty Python.
Finally, the publics’ reward: Melville appears on the Vatican balcony however, politely informs them thanks but no thanks, turns and leaves. Nuns bow heads in disbelief, the cardinals hide faces in hands, the cheering masses stop cheering, and then something else happens, the movie ends.
So just how much does the Pope’s decisions affect the world today? I don’t hear ground breaking news coming from Rome, in fact the only time I hear news about the Pope is when he tours, has passed away, or decides to quit. I wonder what Pope Benedict XVI went through to come to this life-altering conclusion. I can see it all now pacing the Papal halls late into the night, countless journal entries, should I or shouldn’t I? Roaming Rome as he toys with the idea, and sees what he is missing out on. The questions, Who would benefit? Suffer? Would anyone? By the way this movie appeared in theaters in late 2012. I leave you with that thought.