“The Two Popes”, a duet in perfect state of grace

two-popes

The cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, writes to Pope Benedict XVI asking for the possibility to resign after years of ministry and a deep personal crisis. Bergoglio, who previously in the past clashed with the strongly conservative Joseph Ratzinger, is invited to join him in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The “odd couple” will enjoy two hectic days of confrontation and conversation, reminiscences of the past and controversies until when Benedict XVI manifests to Bergoglio his own intention to resign.

Director Fernando Meirelles films a watershed moment in the history of Catholic church when Benedict XVI,  the principal ambassador of Vatican’s conservatism and the ideal successor to John Paul II pontificate, suddenly announced the decision to resign, something unprecedented in the modern era, also adopting some visual echoes of Paolo Sorrentino’s Tv-series “The Young Pope”. The motivations for this decision has never been disclosed in its entirety even if the scandals which threw the Church in turmoil are mentioned in the screenplay of expert biographer Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”) who also gives a deep insight in the controversial survival  relationship of a young Bergoglio with the Argentinian dictatorship which, however, would it have been interesting to balance with the accusations of Nazist collusion made to Ratzinger.

But this movie is a joy to watch mainly for the extraordinary, vital and enjoying performances by this great original duet made by Jonathan Pryce as Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins as Ratzinger. If the surprising similarity of the talented actor of “Brazil” and “Evita” with the first Pope coming from the New World has been noticed many times, Anthony Hopkins depicts the Emeritus Benedict XVI with witticism and severity, indulging on his absorbing passion for theology and suggesting the idea of a man, much more accustomed to live in a library than in the real word. On the other side, Pryce perfectly transmits the gravitas of a man in need of atonement, a man full of doubts and fears which ends up dramatically flirting with a repressive establishment even if in the final scene there is still space for a moment of funny relief.

“The Two Popes” is nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Drama, Best Actor (Jonathan Pryce), Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Screenplay.

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