Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Andrew

The Two Popes

Recommended Posts

Has anyone else seen this yet?  I found it to be a solid film on all counts (acting, storytelling, visuals, morality).  As I said to Jessica afterwards, this is what a truly Christian film should aspire to be:  multidimensional characters (esp. Pryce's Bergoglio, but Hopkins' Ratzinger as well) authentically wrestling with contemporary dilemmas and their own frailties, seeking guidance from their faith.  As a former Christian, their talk - of seeing God's guidance in accidental encounters, seeking to hear God's voice - rang true. 

The film came close to heavy-handedness only once, in its talk of certain leaders wanting to build walls, but mostly was poignant in its contemporary relevance.  And its touches of humor only added to its charm.  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am supposed to have a piece on this in Christianity Today...any moment? (I thought it was supposed to go live yesterday.)

Dramatically, I thought it was fine, but I disagree with Andrew about multidimensional characters. The film came across to me--a protestant--as Francis GOOD, Benedict BAD, so I wonder how it will skew to Catholics. (I think Steven said he is reviewing it, so it will be interesting to hear from him and Evan.) 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Dramatically, I thought it was fine, but I disagree with Andrew about multidimensional characters. The film came across to me--a protestant--as Francis GOOD, Benedict BAD, so I wonder how it will skew to Catholics. (I think Steven said he is reviewing it, so it will be interesting to hear from him and Evan.) 

Francis is certainly the more sympathetic character, with Benedict the verging-on-stodgy old conservative, but then again, I know plenty of people like that.  I felt he was humanized nicely in bonding with Francis through lively give-and-take dialogue and their mutual love of music. On a personal level, he was relatable as an introvert, who's more comfortable in the world of ideas and books. (And the growing affection between Francis and Benedict was apparent to me.)

And yes, I'm very keen to hear from Evan and Steven on this.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll make a point to watch it this weekend, after I'm back home from Thanksgiving travels.

When I first heard of this, I assumed it would be Benedict = bad old conservative, and Francis = good younger liberal. And I was kind of dreading that, because I think Benedict is far more liberal than he's usually given credit for, and Francis is far less liberal than he's generally assumed to be. I'd say this article is a pretty accurate summary of Benedict's papacy: https://psmag.com/social-justice/pope-benedict-retires-catholic-church-rome-52649

After reading Andrew's and Ken's comments, it seems that might be the case. However, making Benedict relatable as an introvert and academic (which he certainly is) gives me some hope for this. Because some of Benedict's alleged conservatism certainly came from him being an introverted academic whose words were often twisted by far-right Catholics in America to make him sound like he agreed with them far more than he actually did, and the reason Francis is hated so much by that same group is that he has a blunt, down to earth way of speaking that they can no longer twist to their benefit, even though Francis is saying less liberal things about climate change and economic justice.

Anyway those are the preconceptions I'll be coming to the film with.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's our article:

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/netflix-two-popes-pits-tradition-against-progress.html

While tweaks in the language ("dangerous") make it skew a little more negative than I actually felt, I do think that it captures my central reservations that the film is slanted against Benedict and that it overly simplifies the papal positions (if not necessarily those of their followers) towards orthodoxy and reform.

Quote

The film sees the key difference between the two men as their respective attitudes toward orthodoxy and reform—a contrast that should interest Protestant viewers as much as Catholics. In ways both large and small, it repeatedly shows a preference for Bergoglio over Benedict and, by implication, for reform over tradition.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The film kind of got off on the wrong foot for me by suggesting that Benedict *really wanted* to become Pope, whereas I remember hearing from a number of Catholics way back when that one of the reasons Benedict resigned was because he never really wanted to be Pope in the first place.

While the film does tend to follow a very-familiar, it-writes-itself stodgy-conservative-versus-radical-reformer narrative, I *did* love the point about halfway through where Benedict reveals to the future Pope Francis that he is going to resign, and suddenly Benedict is the radical who's doing something (almost) unprecedented and the future Pope Francis is the conservative who says no no no you can't do this!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally caught up with it, and here's what I wrote on Letterboxd.

Quote

The flashbacks and scenes of Benedict playing the piano admittedly are pretty good. Regarding the rest of this, I cannot remember the last time a movie so actively insulted my intelligence in almost every scene.

Indeed, Joseph Ratzinger, the pope who said democratic socialism was completely compatible with Catholicism never mentioned economic injustice or care for the environment, except for the countless times he did. And I'm sure there were melodramatic windstorms through the Vatican when that evil old conservative who wrote more progressive documents about climate change and the evils of capitalism than his successor was elected pontiff.

And the godawful confession scenes are a complete betrayal of the (highly inaccurate) caricatures as presented in the film itself.

 


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting - well, you are far better placed than I am to comment on its factual accuracy, so I trust your take on this.  I'd love it if you found time to write a full review, but certainly understand if you don't have the hours to do so at this busy time of the movie year.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wrote this kind of quickly, so may I make some edits tomorrow if I notice anything that really needs to be changed.

https://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/the-two-popes/


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/27/2019 at 10:10 AM, kenmorefield said:

The film came across to me--a protestant--as Francis GOOD, Benedict BAD, so I wonder how it will skew to Catholics. (I think Steven said he is reviewing it, so it will be interesting to hear from him and Evan.) 

 

And now that both Steven and Evan have chimed in, I wanted to return to the film as drama, and not so much as theology/history. Doesn't it fail simply on that level - as drama? And not because of its historical embellishments/inaccuracies, although those make things worse. The film gives its game away fairly early on, and because we know whose "side" the film takes, it's simply uninteresting from that point forward. 

I appreciate Andrew's take from an atheist perspective. It's interesting to me that he's the only thread participant who's positive on this film. I'm not angry at the film, although I could see why others might be. (I'm not saying anyone else's review comes across as angry, only that the film feels designed to tweak certain sensitivities.) 

The Two Popes is this awards season's big letdown - not even good enough to challenge people on the "other side" of the film's debate. Frankly, it felt lazy to me. I'm surprised it has as many fans as it does. 


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Christian said:

And now that both Steven and Evan have chimed in, I wanted to return to the film as drama, and not so much as theology/history. Doesn't it fail simply on that level - as drama? And not because of its historical embellishments/inaccuracies, although those make things worse. The film gives its game away fairly early on, and because we know whose "side" the film takes, it's simply uninteresting from that point forward. 

I appreciate Andrew's take from an atheist perspective. It's interesting to me that he's the only thread participant who's positive on this film. I'm not angry at the film, although I could see why others might be. (I'm not saying anyone else's review comes across as angry, only that the film feels designed to tweak certain sensitivities.) 

The Two Popes is this awards season's big letdown - not even good enough to challenge people on the "other side" of the film's debate. Frankly, it felt lazy to me. I'm surprised it has as many fans as it does. 

Did Steven chime in? (I think I missed that.) He did tell me on FB that he was going to review the film...

As far "as drama" I'm a little more forgiving than Christian, but I am surprised that groups (like say NCFCA) nominated McCarten for best screenplay. I mentioned briefly in my write-up for CT that the script, by going into Francis's past more extensively, becomes imbalanced.

I didn't have space to mention, but I found the whole talking watch thing ("keep moving") to be on-the-nose and ham-handed. Some of that I forgive for maybe working better in a play setting, but isn't part of adapting the play into a film more than just opening it up? (And I'm not sure how well he does that.)

As a total aside, Christian's post reminds me of many academic arguments I've had in 20+ years of holistic scoring for placement tests. I've actually had people say to me, "we're judging the *writing* and there is no category on the rubric for 'factual accuracy.'" I mean, I get that if we are all Sophists in ancient Greece -- there is no truth, only rhetoric. And I get that fiction has certain license to change facts while attempting to highlight some sort of broader or thematic truth. But I guess I'll die on the hill that says if part of what you are selling in your writing is "based on a true story" or "inspired by a true story" that the bar for accuracy should be a little higher.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Did Steven chime in? (I think I missed that.) He did tell me on FB that he was going to review the film...

I just meant that he'd posted his review. I'd thought he'd done that here in this thread, but I must have linked to it from elsewhere.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

But I guess I'll die on the hill that says if part of what you are selling in your writing is "based on a true story" or "inspired by a true story" that the bar for accuracy should be a little higher.

Same here.  This makes me glad that I didn't go public with my admiration of this film any further than this board.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jonathan Pryce is inspired casting for Francis. Hopkins as Benedict is also good, although less startlingly spot-on.

I think as a drama, The Two Popes is fine. It's a very Hollywood simplification and the actual original dynamic of the film (Benedict as conservative, Francis as progressive) isn't really challenged, but merely softened by film's end. The entire movie reminded me of something like Green Book, where the characters do not so much change over the course of the film, but instead display a broader humanization that makes their politics incidental to the actual friendship developing at the film's core. This is par for the course for Hollywood, so I didn't mind this approach so much. It just didn't make me appreciate these two historical men any more than I already did.

As history, the film is absurdly reductive. As well, despite it being ostensibly about both men, it's really the Pope Francis movie (he gets the flashbacks, he gets the arc, Benedict is simply the foil). Also, it's simply annoying to have a film about two enormously influential religious figures refuse to dig into actual theology, or, rather, come to the conclusion that the finer details of religion aren't all that important when compared to the capacity to bond over soccer and music and shared experiences. Don't get me wrong: all those things are important, but I would've preferred the film dig into the actual theological issues at hand in addition to focusing on the burgeoning friendship.

I'm especially interested in individual Catholics' takes on this film, so I sought out both Evan and SDG's reviews immediately after seeing it. My Protestant viewpoint is admittedly distanced from the stakes of the film.


"Cinema is an improvement on life." - Francois Truffaut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have the discussion here to thank:  in my review of Richard Jewell, I cite the "Two Popes Dilemma" in how to review a film that is well dramatized and has solid performances but is profoundly flawed factually.  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...