The newly elected Pope in Moretti's film has a crisis of conscience and confidence (to put it mildly) and spends days deciding if he will even greet the public after the white smoke puffs come out of the Sistine Chapel and after the head of the Conclave announces to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's square "Habemus Papam" or "we have a Pope." The elected one here is a dark horse choice (in fact, 90:1 per the odds-makers, Moretti's film later tells us) when no one else even wants the job. "Lord, don't pick me!" is the common prayer of the cardinals.
Moretti's film seems to take us right to today, as the cardinals proceed into the Sistine Chapel (while a pushy newsman, remarkably like Geraldo Rivera, attempts to interview them). In the backdrop of the Sistine Chapel (recreated for the film), and particularly the entire wall covered by Michelangelo's Last Judgment (no sloppy choice of walls here), the cardinals write out their ballots like high schoolers, peaking at one another's votes.
|Michel Piccoli as the just-elected, and|
totally shocked, Pope
I won't do a spoiler alert for the film, but will say it has many comic moments - the cardinals playing volleyball on geographically determined teams (underrepresented Oceania only has 3 cardinals), under the supervision of the psychiatrist - played by Moretti - brought in to help the Pope get up his gumption; the Swiss Guard ordered to stand in for the Pope, gorging in the Pope's apartments while the Pope is MIA. And the film grabs us with the Pope's wistfulness at the life he could have had - as an actor, quoting Chekhov with an actor's troupe, and multilingual, recalling Pope John Paul II. The last speech of this just-elected Pope sounds like it's out of Benedict's mouth in 2013.
|Swiss Guards under the Last Judgment in|
|Television crews are set up at the end of via della|
Conciliazione facing St. Peter's - part of the Pope watch
Piccoli was a leadingman of French noir and has appeared in more than 200 roles . We just this week saw him in the 1971 Claude Sautet Max et les Ferrailleurs ("Max and the Junkmen") at our local Tarantino-owned theater. Now 85, Piccolo's performance alone is worth watching the film. All criticisms taken, I just watched Habemus Papam again, and found it even more compelling against today's news than I did when I saw it a year ago.
|Crowds in St. Peter's square in 2005, awaiting news of|
a new Pope
We were in Rome when John Paul II died and Benedict XVI was elected. Those 2005 photos give a feel for what Pope-watching is like in Rome.
Another Rome tidbit - The Palazzo Farnese filled in for the Vatican for much of the film. These days, it's almost the only way you can see the Palazzo, which houses the French embassy in central Rome.
|View from St. Peter's square back|
to the TV stands at the end of
via della Conciliazione (the bright
|Crowds watching an outdoor screen set against the Coliseum|
for Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005
|Crowds in Circo Massimo, with the Palatine Forum in the|
background, large screens and speakers set up for
Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005