Nanni Moretti’s Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) tells a story about shirking official responsibility. The first 10 minutes solemnly chronicle a papal election at the Vatican, complete with a long procession of chanting cardinals assembled for a Conclave and a pious crowd waiting in the St. Peter’s Square to welcome the new pope. Then signs of levity appear: cardinals fidget, try to peek at each other’s secret ballots, and silently pray to God to save them from being chosen. Respectful of faith, but skeptical about the pomp and ritual of the Catholic Church, the film lays out how the cardinals are constrained and also shaped by traditions. They can’t leave until the entire ceremony is completed, and out-of-town representatives are denied access to museums and donuts. Moretti plays a psychoanalyst who is invited to ease the pope’s anxiety, but they’re granted no privacy: the cardinals listen intently to every word of their sessions. This means the doctor can’t ask the required questions, not about the pope’s childhood, his mother, secret desires, or crises of faith. The film takes up the happy absurdity and political commentary that are familiar from other Moretti movies as the pope escapes to the streets of Rome, leaving the psychiatrist stuck with the Conclave. His search for a way out becomes the film’s major metaphor.
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// Notes from the Road
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