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The Two Popes: A cinematic contemplation of what it means to be Pope in the modern era

  • Published at 08:49 pm January 13th, 2020
The Two Popes
Jonathan Pryce has been nominated for Oscar for his character in the film | IMDB

Both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are brilliant in their respective roles

Lately, while watching the film The Two Popes on Netflix, I kept, in the back of my head, thinking, what type of lavish life do popes lead?  I couldn’t tell whether the cinematography of the film was just good, or whether each and every aspect of the Vatican is so beautiful that it always looks stunning, on-screen and off.

Nevertheless, The Two Popes is a good film based on real events in the lives of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. The film lets viewers have a look into the life and lifestyle of the popes, the papal institution and Vatican City. And of course, the film shows the beautify of the Sistine Chapel. 

At the beginning of the film, there are scenes in which the tension of the papal conclave is articulated properly. The film begins in 2005 with Catholic cardinals gathering, following the death of Pope John Paul II, to elect a new pope.

The film also reveals many aspects of faiths and beliefs. From the film, we learn that even the popes get confused and look for divine answers or signs in moments of crisis. Being a pope is not an easy job. A pope needs to deal with nearly 1.2 billion followers, politics, history and many conflicts. 

Director Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes skillfully examines that bridge between the human and the divine. 

Both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are brilliant in their respective roles. 

The film shows intimate friendship and tensions between the two popes. It is also like a breath of fresh air, watching the two popes enjoy meals or music together, or talk about their faith. 

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pryce) is an Argentinian, who believes in reform, and has no interest in becoming Pope. Rather, he wants to retire. On the other hand, Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (Hopkins) is a conservative who is elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Seven years later, the church finds itself in the   middle of multiple scandals. Bergoglio wants to retire so he can live out his days as a simple priest. 

However, he is called to Rome to visit Benedict and talk about retirement. Benedict doesn’t want Bergoglio to retire because it would send a signal that a major reformer has given up on the papacy; Benedict has other plans for the humble Argentinian cardinal.

Later, Cardinal Bergoglio is elected Benedict’s successor, in the 2013 papal conclave, and becomes Pope Francis. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is that it doesn't try to take any political or religious stand. It portrays the pure friendship between two humans who also, like other people, have their doubts and confusion. Even if you are not a believer, you will probably enjoy the silly moments and confessional moments between two great men. 

The film was written by Anthony McCarten, and César Charlone did the cinematography. The art and set design of the film is top-notch, while its background score complements the story. 

The film, which I would give 3.5 stars out of 5, is available on Netflix.