The Man Behind the Pope

The Man Behind the Pope

Director: Beda Docampo Feijóo

Rating: 0/5 or anything less than zero, or the lowest letter grade possible

Fresh from my Grandmother’s funeral mass and with great trepidation I marched into the theatre to watch a film about the head Catholic honcho, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, or as you know him, the incumbent Pope Francis. Conclusion: Worst. Biopic. EVER! If only there were a rating I could give below zero. Basically, this film is just two hours of meandering propaganda trying so very earnestly and limply to establish a cult of personality, being so unsubtle that I suspect Tommy Wiseau secretly directed it.

To summarise the plot, a young writer who doesn’t know the man behind the pope, befriends the man behind the pope, and eventually comes to know the man behind the pope. From his early days giving mass in the slums of Buenos Aires to the papal hotseat many decades later, the story is told mainly in flashbacks, which are unwieldy monstrosities of exposition about how he is always humble, generous, and one of the progressive ‘good-guys’ in the Catholic church.

Though the cinematography was wonderful and the actors gorgeous, most of the directorial decisions were beyond fathoming. I was flabbergasted by the way E-V-E-R-Y  S-C-E-N-E consisted of some stranger or friend despairing to the pope about the state of the world, until he takes their arm, dispenses well-spoken-but-trite truisms disguised as holy wisdom, before he (more or less) whaps on his sunglasses and marches out of shot in a never-ending series of C.S.I. YEEEEEEAAAAAAHH-moments, leaving their worlds rocked by his compassion and unassailable upstanding character. Hmm, speaking always in parables so that everybody thinks he is just like Jesus, much?

The film is all in Italian and Spanish, which is aesthetically beautiful, but it makes it hard to assign blame for how weird this film turned out. I refuse to believe that Italians and Argentinians speak with such regal-sounding fatuousness in everyday life, so either the subtitles are translated very poorly, or the script really just sucks that much. Either way, I suggest that before you go making long-term relationship plans, you double and triple-check with your intended squeeze that they aren’t going to be playing this film on a screen anywhere near your face any time for the rest of your life. This one’s pretty much a deal-breaker.

This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2016.
Posted 12:39pm Sunday 24th April 2016 by Andrew Kwiatkowski.