The Two Popes at LFF: full of energy, care and love
I remember quite vividly when Pope Benedict XVI resigned from his post and Pope Francis was elected. At the time, I was attending a Catholic school and we had debates about the Pope resigning. How could he do that? Is he a coward for leaving? Is it admirable to resign if you know you cannot be of service? These questions lingered in our minds, and we also had a new Pope.
After Pope Francis’ first appearance, he seemed humble and not a fan of the luxurious lifestyle of his predecessor. Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes tells the story of these two men: servants of the church who viewed the institution in very different ways. Francis showed a radical but progressive approach to the church, believing its need to open up in light of a drop in followers; Benedict, on the other hand, believing in a more conservative and traditional approach.
The beauty of the film is the contrast it shows between both men. Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Bergoglio have different views on the church – we see this in how they move along the ranks of the Vatican and their habits. The film begins with the election of Ratzinger as Pope Benedict, and we see his dislike of Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis. Ratzinger is making sure to secure enough votes, but he doesn’t even try to sway his closest competitor.
As we know, Ratzinger becomes the new Pope. The film then cuts to 2012, when Benedict is in the midst of a scandal and Bergoglio is trying to resign (as the church has not followed his reforms). To his surprise, he is invited to come back to Rome by Pope Benedict. In their first encounter, we find a more fragile but friendlier Benedict. He is reclused in this summer house having dinner alone as he sips his beloved orange Fanta. When Bergoglio and Ratzinger finally meet, we see the Pope being more open to listen to the Cardinal. They have a conversation where lines are drawn, with Ratzinger explicitly stating how much he disagrees with Bergoglio. Nevertheless, to Bergoglio surprise, he finds out he is to stay in the residence, showing Ratzinger’s persistence to listen to him.
Meirelles shoots the film with confidence. He gives himself total freedom to use the camera they way he wants, and use comedy with the best actor duo of the year (perhaps after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) which leads us to many priceless moments in the film. On the other hand, there is a moment when the film loses its footing to explain, via flashbacks, Bergoglio’s past. It completely takes you out of a beautiful moment he was sharing with Ratzinger and dumps a large amount of story we don’t really need.
Despite the messy flashback, the Two Popes is a film full of energy, care and love. We observe two old men who have dedicated their lives to the Catholic Church and are working to preserve it. Their views are different, like any other two people who support different ideologies in any country, and here we find the beauty of the film. Whether you are familiar with Catholicism or not, this is a movie about dialogue, reflection and how to move forward.