Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Movie Review: "A Man Who Became Pope"

Last night the Hallmark Channel aired "A Man Who Became Pope", the first of several movie biographies about John Paul II. I missed the first hour. Bearing that in mind, here are some of my impressions:

That the teachings and writings of Pope John Paul II were presented faithfully: I especially loved the scene where he gave a talk to his college students on love and sexuality -- the talks that eventually became the Theology of the Body. The moviemakers made good use of John Paul's writings to convey his message of God's love and mercy via voiceovers and dialogue.

Piotr Adamczyk, the actor who played Karol Woytyla: Not as extroverted as the late pope, nor as good looking, but he did a great job in getting across the man's holiness. In fact, all the actors were very convincing (I think most if not all are Polish).

Woytyla as shepherd: The give and take between the spy Adam and Woytyla when the spy confesses his activities was simply outstanding. I will never forget the words Woytyla said to him upon giving Adam pardon: Woytyla says, and I am paraphrasing, you are not despicable; you are human and your need for love is great, so great that it has been smothering your soul. I have forgiven all that needs forgiven.

The movie succeeds in depicting the late pope's great love for humanity via the pastoral care he gave his sheep.

I also loved the scene brief depicting the pope saying Mass using a kayak as an altar. That's the kind of behavior that will make you either love Karol Woytyla more or less. Since I don't consider myself holier than the pope, the scene made me love him even more

The final scene: News footage of the real Pope John Paul II stepping out on to the balcony to greet the crowds in St. Peter's Square. All kinds of emotions welled up in me and I remembered just how much I miss this pope.

Expository dialogue: Yes, there was a lot of explaining to do for the benefit of an international audience of viewers who wouldn't necessarily know much about, say, the neighborhoods of Krakow, for example, but too much expository dialogue tries the patience.

The pacing: It was as if the moviemakers were trying to cram in as much as possible without thinking too much about how it all would hang together.

The cartoonish villains: Bad guys smoke cigarettes. When they are plotting, they inhale very deeply.

The soap opera subplots: Yeah, I know. There's a lot of people out there who would not watch a movie without sex, even/especially, if this movie was about the pope. And yeah, Karol Woytyla was very attractive, and he broke a few hearts. And, hey, the romance between the spy and the college girl did provide an opportunity to work in the Theology of the Body, but I've never got into soap operas and there were just too much of that for me.

No mysticism: There were hints of it in scenes showing Karol Woytyla in prayer, for example. But wouldn't you have loved more than an aside about how the prayers of Padre Pio saved the life of Hania?

Overall: I'm happy with the effort and I am thrilled to learn that the producers of "A Man" have in the works a second movie dealing with John Paul II's pontificate.