Winner of the Palme d’or in 2001 for The Son's Room, the Italian film-maker is presenting his eleventh feature film and his sixth in Competition at Cannes. Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope), his portrait of a Pope who feels unable to take up his role, has divided Catholic opinion.
After the Left, the cinema, the education system and Silvio Berlusconi, Nanni Moretti turns his ironic gaze on the Church. In The Mass is Ended (1985), he had already sniped at religion in his portrayal of a young priest whose help is rejected by the people. In We have a Pope, the action takes at the headquarters of the Roman Church, at the Vatican, as the conclave meets to elect a new Pope. Panic ensues when the elected cardinal (Michel Piccoli), terrified by the function he is called to fulfil, refuses to present himself to the crowd assembled in St Peter's Square.
Nanni Moretti has found the ideal context in which to balance personal and political questions, the essence of his cinema since I Am Self-sufficient in 1976. As is often the case with Moretti, tragedy is mixed in with the comedy. Tragedy at the Vatican, where the conclave of cardinals attempts to deal with the crisis. Comedy in the streets of Rome into which the Pope escapes.
It would be a mistake to believe that Nanni Moretti, who plays the therapist sent by the religious authorities to help the Pope assume his functions, has abandoned his autobiographical streak by setting his film in the Vatican. "There is something of me in both the character of the psychotherapist and in Melville's (the Pope's) feelings of discomfort and inadequacy", stresses the director, who has already played a therapist once before in The Son's Room.
On general release in Italy since 15 April, We Have a Pope is enjoying enormous success, stirring debate even within the Catholic Church. Although Vatican expert Salvatore Izzo has published an appeal to boycott the film in Avvenire (the journal of Italian bishops), the Jesuite review Civilità Cattolica and Radio Vatican have both defended the film's respectful, humanist approach.
We Have a Pope is scheduled for screening on Friday 13 May at 8.30am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm at the Théâtre Lumière