We Have a Pope (2011): Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti's interesting insight into the world of papacy

By Jugu Abraham

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

We Have a Pope, Habemus Papam, Film Poster
We Have a Pope (2011)  - Original Title:  Habemus Papam - By Nanni Moretti
IMDb Ratings: 6.8
GenreComedy | Drama
Cast: Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo
Country: Italy | France
Language: Italian German | Latin | English | Spanish | Polish | French
Runtime: 102 min

SummaryAt the Vatican, following the demise of the Pope, the conclave to elect his successor settles on Cardinal Melville. But the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square wait in vain for the new Pope to step out on the balcony. What is going on? Behind the thick walls of the Vatican panic has set in. After uttering a terrible howl of fear, the Cardinal refuses the office. The officials do everything to try to reason with Melville, including a psychoanalyst, appointed by the Vatican... Do we really have a Pope?

Nanni Moretti is the Woody Allen of Italian cinema. Just as Woody Allen would have dealt with Jewish subjects, Moretti is concerned with what makes the world of papacy tick in the Vatican and looks at the subject from a psychoanalyst's point of view and as a citizen of the neighboring city of Rome. 

It is not surprising that Moretti himself plays the cheeky role of the best psychoanalyst in Italy, who has separated from his wife (who in her turn thinks she is a better psychoanalyst than her husband and is having an affair outside her marriage with yet another psychoanalyst). Even her two kids seem to be psychoanalysts in the making. Even one of the cardinals is surviving with help of an incredibly potent anti-depressant, an indirect swipe at the mental condition of some of the Cardinals!

Michel Piccoli in We Have a Pope, Directed by Nanni Moretti
Michel Piccoli in We Have a Pope
The Pope-elect suffers from an inferiority complex that his sister was chosen as an actress in a play when he so desperately wanted to act in the play himself (a mirror image of the squabbling kids of the lady psychoanalyst in her car). Decades later he identifies himself as an actor going through a mental crisis.

Moretti means well. Moretti is interesting even when he attempts to point out quite correctly the myriad psychoanalytical situations that populate the Bible. There is visual psychoanalytic comedy, too, when Jerzy Stuhr's character receives a call from the Pope-elect and involuntarily stands up in respect as though his boss, the Pope, were standing in front of him. 

Francis Chamber, A Still From We Have a Pope aka  Habemus Papam, Directed by Nanni Moretti
A Still from We Have a Pope
While Moretti succeeds in getting amazing and credible performances from Michel Piccoli and Jerzy Stuhr (who are anyway great performers), Moretti is out of his depth in portraying a bunch Cardinals as pathetic, low-IQ human beings who sulk in front of a psychoanalyst. While there may be a few among the Cardinals who fit that bill, the majority of them are well-read, intelligent, above-average individuals who might be dogged in their views but all the same are quite capable of resisting the wiles of a psychoanalyst.

The best aside in the film for me was Moretti's comment that "gas" for your kitchen and heating is cheaper in the Vatican than in Rome and that you can get many goods including medicines there that you cannot get in Rome.

Nanni Moretti (left), Michel Piccoli (right) in We Have a Pope, Directed by Nanni Moretti
Nanni Moretti (left) in We Have a Pope
Moretti is good at being able to bring out his views without offending anyone but he, despite his best intentions, unfortunately never can be considered as one of the best directors in Italy. But he can take comfort that he made Mr. Piccoli give a superb performance in his own film.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!

About Author - 

Jugu Abraham, Profile Pic, Author of "Movies that make you think"Jugu Abraham, film scholar and the sole author of the blog "Movies that make you think," is an Indian who has worked with UN-sponsored international organizations for over 20 years, specializing in resource mobilization for international non-profit agricultural research. From 1978 to 1985, he was a film critic with the Hindustan Times group of publications, New Delhi, India, and continues to write from time to time on good quality international cinema. He considers himself to be fortunate to have met and interviewed some of the stalwarts of cinema, dance and drama from diverse parts of the world. His education spans physics, literature, management, and mass communication. Born in Uganda, he has traveled to some 50 countries. He is currently living in Trivandrum, Kerala, India. On IMDb alone, he has published over 300 film reviews which can be read here.

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  1. this seems to be an interesting movie...

  2. It indeed is... thanks for sharing yours valuable thoughts!!! :-)

  3. Sounds super interesting. Definitely gonna watch it!


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