Thoughtful but funny in a low-key way, Nanni Moretti’s “We Have a Pope” examines the idea of papal succession through a fictional story that reminds us just how daunting the job itself must be.
After the death of the old pope in this story, when the College of Cardinals gathers in conclave to consider who should succeed as head of the Catholic Church, Moretti reads the minds of the various cardinals as they wait for the vote-count to begin – and their thoughts are universally the same: “Please don’t choose me.”
Eventually, the conclave settles on elderly Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), who seems shocked at his selection. He is so shocked, in fact, that he blurts out that he can’t do the job.
So even though the puff of white smoke has been sent up, signaling that a pope has been chosen, the new pontiff does not appear on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where the assembled faithful await their first glimpse of the new pope. He refuses to accept.
The cardinals decide to bring in a psychologist (Moretti himself), to try to get the new pope to open up and explain his fear. One problem: The cardinals won’t leave doctor and patient alone to talk. They insist on guarding the new pope, encircling the two men, doctor and patient, in a large room, as the shrink tries to get the obviously unhappy older man to open up.
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