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I’m fascinated by stories of faith. Belief is central to identity, and we live our lives based on our systems of beliefs. Faith, particularly organized religion, demands a faith that requires adherence to certain rules, requirements, etc. When you get into the Catholic Church, you’re dealing with not only 1.2 billion followers, but also two millennia of doctrine, dogma, history, and conflict that continues to this day. It is an awesome and terrifying responsibility to be the leader of that faith, to stand as “Jesus’ representative here on Earth,” and know that you are only human with all the faults that entails. Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes skillfully examines that gulf between the human and the divine and where two religious figures of conflicting beliefs fall into it. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are fantastic in finding the humanity in their historical figures as they show the burden of their responsibilities, the grace in their failings, and what it means to be “Pope” in the 21st century.
The film begins in 2005 with Catholic cardinals gathering following the death of Pope John Paul II to elect a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pryce), an Argentinan who shuns the finery of the church in favor of ministering to the poor and pushing for reforms, has no interest in becoming Pope. Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (Hopkins), a traditionalist who knows how to glad-hand and get the votes for the job, eventually is elected Pope Benedict XVI, but Beroglio makes a surprising second-place finish. Seven years later, the church has become drenched in multiple scandals, and Bergoglio is looking to retire so he can live out his days as a simple priest. However, he is called to Rome to visit with Benedict and talk about retirement. Benedict doesn’t want to Bergoglio to retire...
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