We watched the movie The Two Popes. It depicts the relationship between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis during the time the papacy is shifting from one man to the other in 2013. The movie had some genuinely funny moments and the two veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are excellent in their roles. I gained a greater understanding about how the election of a new pope takes place and I learned quite a bit more about the modern history of Argentina since Pope Francis was a cardinal from Buenos Aires and his past is chronicled in some detail in the movie.
But…………… I found it hard to concentrate on the story of the film because I was so bothered by…….
1) the astounding affluence depicted in the movie’s locations. The two men walk through the marble halls of The Vatican lined with thousands of priceless artworks or stroll in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Pope’s lavish summer palace on the ocean and you think about how all this ostentatious wealth you are seeing could be used to feed the hungry and help the sick and find homes for refugees. Those are the kinds of things truly dedicated Christians are commanded to do and the two popes are supposed to be role models.
2) the pious patriarchy depicted in the scenes of the film. All these self-important MEN file into a hall to elect the new pope. They have a say in the spiritual futures of millions of trusting people who have placed the running of the church in their hands, and yet they are the very same men who have betrayed their congregants’ trust in a whole host of ways including turning a blind eye to sexual abuse. The only women in the film were female nuns who had small parts and were mostly shown waiting hand and foot on all those self-important MEN. All I could think about was the damage that the patriarchal system of the church has done.
3) the crippling conservatism of the two popes in the film. They are depicted as intellectual, thoughtful men of God but they both oppose legal abortion while at the same time do not support the use of contraception. Both popes have refused to ordain women and will not allow priests to marry. Neither supports same-sex marriage or believes that gender identity can be fluid.
Thinking about those three things was uppermost in my mind during the movie and I admit it prevented me from fully appreciating the film.
But……….. maybe part of what the director Fernando Ferreira Meirelles was trying to do was to make me think about exactly those things with the lavish locales where he chose to shoot the film, with the lack of a substantial female presence in the film and with his avoidance of discussing any major social issues.