"“The idea of a deadpan, comical insight into the Vatican had me grinning just as the titles went up…”"

Satirical comedy is certainly a popular brand of humour in Britain. However, this sardonic variety of wit, through the use of panel shows such as Mock the Week, and Have I Got News For You, for example, has almost become a guise to simply poke fun at the government, which, despite your political allegiance, is becoming rather derivative. Therefore, it’s quite refreshing to take a satirical look at issues from a different nation’s perspective, and see what it is they wish to ridicule – and, as an Italian production, the Vatican certainly seemed a good place to start.

One of many Italian films airing at the London Film Festival, We Have a Pope is a stimulating comedy-drama, taking a more individualistic view on the election of a new Pope.

In the Catholic world, and particularly in Italy, the appointment of a new Pope is a momentous occasion, and Nanni Moretti’s dry take on such events, humanises the Cardinals and the chosen, supposed providential man, taking on the role as the leader of the Catholic Church.

The selection process consists of various Cardinals from across the globe coming together to vote for their new leader, whom must gratefully take on the role with nobility and gratitude. However, once Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli) is selected as the new Pope, we soon discover that this is not a role he is ready to take on, and as a result, it makes the elderly man ask questions of his life as he seeks to comprehend his existence, and to figure out what the future may hold for him – and how he can shape it to his liking. 

Despite the poignancy surrounding the saga of the new Pope and his queries with life, until it is announced to the public whom has been selected – no-one is allowed to leave the Vatican, as the verdict must remain undisclosed until the Pope has said so. This leads to a series of comical events, as the Cardinals are effectively stuck in the Vatican, along with the therapist, Dr. Brezzi – played by director and writer Moretti, who was initially only supposed to be going in for a short session with the Pope.

However, despite the comical potential for the film, and the prospective profoundness, it manages to stumble on both accounts, proving to be a film that quite simply should have been better.

It was a feature I had been excited about prior to watching it – the idea of a deadpan, comical insight into the Vatican had me grinning just as the titles went up, but sadly the film failed to use the occasional wit to its advantage. At points it was hilarious, but they came few and far between, leaving me frustrated it couldn’t have been that way throughout.

I was also somewhat confounded with the films ending. Despite boiling up towards the Popes decision, whether he would return to the Vatican, and what he would end up doing with himself, not too mention how the public would react if they learnt of his escape, it instead left too many stones unturned, and seemed to lack the fortitude needed to fully resolve this film, and provide it with the big ending it so deserved.

Therefore, despite enjoying the film in parts, notably the brilliant segment where the Dr. Brezzi organises a volleyball tournament amongst the Cardinals, splitting them up into teams based on their continent (Australasia were given a tough ride), it just seemed to be a film of moments, but was lacking in its overall picture, choosing sincerity over pleasantries on a few too many occasions – whilst failing to find an effective combination between the two.

However, it’s still a unique idea and an enjoyable watch, and, as I recall many people asking whether they believed that Queen Elizabeth II watched ‘The Queen’ when it was released - well I wonder if the Pope would watch this, and if he was to, I bet he’d bloody love it.