Sun 15 May 2016
Papacy and its institutions have attracted film makers in many different ways. The Vatican or its clones have been used as sets and stage for many movies in genres ranging from historical movies to crazy comedies. Nanni Moretti‘s Habemus Papam tries to be more and different. It tries to say something important about the burden of supreme office of the Catholic Church, while telling a story that hesitates between social satire and comedy of situations.
A pope is dead, and a new pope needs to be elected. The college of cardinals gets together, doors close, cardinals start the election process. After a few inconclusive rounds, cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli) is the unexpected winner. White smoke. The pope is to be announced and should bless the crowds gathered in the piazza in front of the San Pietro. However, there is a problem. The new pope seems to have second thoughts. The burden of responsibility? Stage fear? A shrink (Nanni Moretti himself), the best money can buy, is called in help. And then the pope runs away. Maybe he is looking to get back to his secret vocation, repressed in childhood? Maybe he will be convinced to get back, after revisiting his responsibilities?
The premises are exceptional for a very interesting film, maybe for more than one. This is actually the problem with ‘Habeamus Papam’. Nanni Moretti seems to not have decided which film to make. The characters comedy with the shrink trying to psycho-analize the pope, and the bunch of semi-idiots with teenager behaviors which seem to compose the cardinals crowd? The situation farce where a member of the guard plays the shadow of the pope to mask the fact that the head of the Catholic church just ran away to try to face real life? The drama of the man facing a huge burden and questioning whether he is ready to undertake it, doubled by the conflict between life as it happens and the deformed reality lived by priests? Each of these succeed to some extent, especially the later due to the superb acting of Michel Piccoli. The ensemble does not work as one movie.