The Catholic Church is an institution rich in tradition and one of its oldest is the role of The Pope, a deep history dating back thousands of years. Throughout time, only two Popes have ever stood down, after all it’s a role that is usually held until death. But Pope Benedict XVI bucked the trend and resigned in 2013, where Pope Francis was appointed the role on 13th of March 2013.
The Two Popes covers several periods of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis’ history. First we see the process used to elect a new Pope, a vote held in the Sistine chapel by the Cardinals of the Church. A hopeful must win at least two thirds of the ballot to become the next Pope, at which time white smoke is set from a chimney to notify the appointment of the new Pope. We then jump to the future and see the two sharing a week together as Pope Benedict gets a gauge on Pope Francis (then known as Cardinal Bergoglio) and decides if he would be a suitable candidate for the role once he resigns. Interweaved between all of the flashbacks, The Two Popes gives audiences a look into Pope Francis‘ turbulent past and how he found his way into the church.
Johnathon Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are outstanding in this film and I can definitely see why they both scored the Oscar nominations. They bring great humility to their characters, bring them down off their pedestals and give these two men great personalities. I loved the humour between the two and the on-screen chemistry, but also the tension in the beginning that is slowly broken down through the film as the pair become great friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed how The Two Popes was edited, the storytelling style (with the use of flashbacks), and the pacing of this film. At the beginning of the film we see a lot of ‘media’ style footing, news coverage of the passing of Pope John Paul II, the ensuing vote and election of his successor. I particularly loved how the film presented the voting procedure in a fun and interesting frame. Following this, the film then slows down the pace and takes it time become much more deep and personal narrative, consistent but not too slow to be boring. If anything, I was captivated and interested the whole time.
As you would imagine the filming locations for this film is amazing, set in the Sistine Chapel (or appearing to be with a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel interior created at the Cinecittà studios in Rome), various stand-ins in Rome for scenes at the Vatican, an area outside the Palace of Castel Gandolfo in Italy (the Pope’s summer residence), and the poor areas in the streets of Buenos Aires. These locations provide some truly breathtaking and eye-opening scenes in places well known around the world.
Honestly, The Two Popes is an outstanding film. For me, an Agnostic person with no real interest in the Catholic Church or The Pope, I found the film to be quite fascinating and educational. I learnt a lot about the processes within The Church, about these two men and the events in 2013, which I can vaguely remember hearing about as a 13 year old. It is beautifully shot, well edited and the performances from the two leads make this film a stand out. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate it, so don’t let the content put you off of seeing this great film!