The Two Popes: the Vatican between faith and politics

Under the direction of Fernando Meirelles, veterans Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce brilliantly portray the last two pontiffs.

Still from the trailer of the movie 'The two potatoes'.

Still from the trailer of the movie ‘The two potatoes’. / Photo: youtube.com/Netflix

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández

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Leer en español: Los dos papas: el Vaticano entre la fe y la política

Since his appearance as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones, Jonathan Pryce (Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean) has drawn attention for his close resemblance to Pope Francis. Not least, in addition to the physical resemblance, Pryce embodied a charismatic leader, a kind of pope from a powerful cult that even made Cersei Lannister shake.

Memes were created because of the similarities and in the end, it became a reality, in the recently released The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019) Pryce plays the Argentine pontiff alongside the experienced Anthony Hopkins who embodies Benedict XVI.

The actor commented in an interview: "I remember that I started with the character more or less at the time that Pope Francis was elected. And Pope Francis did the same as High Sparrow, except for walking barefoot, but he could have been barefoot. He spoke to the poor, administered to the poor, exactly like my character", according to the newspaper Ámbito.

It is not the first time that Pryce works on a character linked to Argentina, the same newspaper notes that the British played in the past Juan Domingo Perón, another of the crucial characters of the South American country, in the musical Evita (Alan Parker, 1996 ) with Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

Trepidant, from beginning to end

Although The Two Popes focus on the relationship and "alliance" between Francisco and Benedict XVI, it is still a dynamic tape from beginning to end and the language of Fernando Meirelles (City of Deus, The constant gardener) manages to keep the attention of the spectator. Some fragments would seem taken from The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) when the director explains how the conclave that chooses the pope works, a solemn musical process with ABBA that creates a comic experience.



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The story has three crucial moments: the election of Benedict XVI, the almost withdrawal of Jorge Bergoglio and the "alliance" that is formed between the two that becomes important for the Church to look to the future.

Through the thinking of both leaders, the viewer can notice the deep differences that exist between the two characters, but at the same time, it becomes the strength of Bergoglio to face the challenges of the institution. In The Two Popes, not everything is comedy; There is a severe criticism of the Vatican dome for the handling of child abuse in clear reference to what happened with Marcial Maciel.

You can also read: These are the Golden Globe nominees

As a Latin American, Fernando Meirelles does not miss the opportunity to show a "realistic" version of Jorge Bergoglio. There is a concern to show his life in its historical context and take care of details that seem minimal, but which are relevant as his passion for football and his accent. We can hear in the original audio the Buenos Aires accent of the Pope, thanks to the fact that they decided to double Jonathan Pryce and thus avoid a Spanish with a British accent that particularly in the Latin American audience would have subtracted realism.



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In this regard, the actor commented to the newspaper El Canciller: "Actually I do not know how to speak in Spanish, but I learned my texts by heart with an instructor. Although in the first cut of the film I said all my dialogues, it was impossible to achieve the Argentine accent and that's why they made the decision to redouble those post-production sequences with an Argentine actor. Anyway, you can hear me speaking in Italian and a little in Latin." Therefore, the recommendation for this film is to see it in the original language, as there are dialogues in Latin, English, Spanish, Italian and some phrases in other languages.

Hopkins-Pryce chemistry

Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Hitchcock) is one of the most experienced actors of today, with multiple characters of all kinds under his belt, the Briton has returned to work with Meirelles for The Two Popes. He has achieved with Pryce a special chemistry, one of the greatest strengths of the film, as both actors maintain a constant tension that goes far beyond dialogue.


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The musical skill of Benedict XVI is explored by Hopkins, in the same way that Pryce addresses Francisco's charisma, the director commented in an interview: “Jonathan is a jazz musician, everything is very instinctive, he wanted to understand his body language, his state mental. While Anthony is a classical, very technical musician, he learns the score, the music and then makes his interpretation”, as quoted in the Diario Profile.



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This intense work has allowed the film to reach the Golden Globe nominations strongly: Pryce is a candidate for Best Actor in a Drama, Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor, the author of the book on which the story is based, Anthony McCarten, He competes for Best Screenplay and the film for the Best Dramatic Film Award, as the awards announced a few days ago.

The film has been a surprise in a year in which Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019) seems to take everything in its path. Netflix has three powerful cards for the awards season: Story of a marriage of Noah Baumbach, Scorsese's Irish and Meirelles's two popes, the Golden Globes are usually a thermometer of what the Oscars will be, where the tapes of Netflix aim to take more than they achieved in the previous installment.


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