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Staring Anthony Hopkins and Johnathon Pryce, Two Popes retells of an encounter between Pope Benedict XVI and the then Jorge Bergoglio, who would later become Pope Francis. The film is an intimate portrayal of two men with seemingly different views of the one global body and it’s future direction.

The film’s opening scenes show footage of the immediate predecessor to Benedict; namely John Paul II, who had been the longest serving Pope until his death in 2005. Much of Benedict’s papacy is brushed over, with only vague references to his reputation upon assuming office as “God’s Rottweiler”; a reputation gained primarily due to his nationality, but also his reputation as a doggedly conservative theologian who during the previous papacy had a reputation for ruthlessly enforcing the alleged doctrine of John Paul II. Instead it is left up to the supposed attitude of his colleagues that the character of Benedict is assessed.

The film instead focuses on an alleged meeting between the two when Bergoglio was contemplating retiring: having seemingly been passed over for the top job in favour of Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). In the opening phases of the encounter the contrast in attitude between the two is merely hinted at. The modesty of Bergoglio, the rigid sense of duty displayed by an aging Benedict. As the film progresses the two exchange opinions on various issues within the church, each one showing the attitudes that would come to define the reputation of each.

It has to be said that; regardless of your views on either Christianity or the state of the modern church, it is fascinating as a viewer two see two such great actors sparing verbally with each other as they espouse the views of the one body that they would both lead in their own unique way.

That is the films strength. The films weakness however is that while it has two figures who are controversial to some in their own way, it only follows up on the supposed controversy of one of them. We are taken back in time to Argentina of the time of military rule in the 1970’s and 80’s. A young Jorge Bergoglio is a priest in Buenos Aries at the time. There are those who try to suggest that he was complicit in the assassination of some of his colleagues. The film does vindicate Bergoglio of any wrongdoing in this matter, however in order to give a balance to the film it might have been useful to have illustrated some of his experiences during war torn Germany. Of course it is ridiculous to suggest that the Benedict was a Nazi because he was a member of the Hitler youth; German children were often shamefully conscripted by the Nazis into this organisation. It may however have been useful to show something of what the future Benedict XVI, as well as ordinary German’s, went through in order to shape the person that he became. In this way it would have illustrated that both men came through troubling times in their own countries.

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