The appeal of friendship is universal. Be it between two kids on their first day of school or people jostling for high offices. There has been a little bit of talk about how Netflix’s The Two Popes has played around with the chronology of events. Some even question if many of the facts as shown in the movie depict the reality or not. However, as someone who isn’t really a direct stakeholder in this religious cum political exercise, I found the director Fernando Meirelles’s take on this shift from the old to new, quite engaging.
The Two Popes is a story of two men from different backgrounds and ideals. Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor, Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), develop a friendship despite starting from a position of hostility. Vying for the same position or being pushed to do so in the case of Pope Francis, these two men couldn’t be different. Pope Benedict is all about tradition, and orthodoxy. On the flipside, Pope Francis is a simple man with a great dislike for fanciful (or wasteful) displays.
Facing a crisis with regards to sexual abuse by Priests, Pope Benedict recognizes the need for the Church to change. The film pretty much looks the other way in terms of this scandal and rather focuses on its impact on the Church. There is some admission of oversight or even ignorance but not much attention is given to it. Rather it is its aftermath is the focus.
The world around him has already changed. If they have to stay relevant, a change is needed. And who better to lead that change than someone who is loved by people for who he is i.e. Pope Francis? Someone reluctant to be the leader. A reference to John Snow’s ‘I don’t want it’, perhaps. Pope Francis, on the other hand, is fighting his own demons from the past. The horror of him trying to appease a dictator (Argentinian) and failing is shown in flashbacks.
In these discussions (which some say never took place) is the joy of the film. The scepticism of these two men turns into a comforting trust. They confide in each other for the sins they have committed. They vent out in frustration, the laugh and dance together. Eventually, setting a path for a new way for the Church. One could look at this in a conservative to liberal transformation but that would perhaps be a little myopic.
Director Fernando Meirelles and screenplay writer Anthony McCarten have a greater vision. Both work in tandem to give this global story a personal touch. Making them look as two individuals, unburdened for moments at least by the responsibility they bear. The difference in approach between the two men is hammered in great detail. Yet, each man has come with some flaws and some remedial qualities. Both leading actors are in fine form, not really missing a beat. Nifty editing techniques have been used to push forward a slow narrative.
All in all, this game of thrones, is not gory neither sensual. Rather it focuses on human emotions and the inexplicable human quality of failing. Even those in the highest office.