Who would have thought that Jude Law, that British actor, would someday play an American Pope in an Italian-directed movie. As Pius XIII, Law is an American Pope, the youngest in the history of the Vatican, the first American ever there. The work, The Young Pope by Paolo Sorrentino, had its premiere at Venice on Saturday.
From a cafe-keeper in Wong Kar-wai’s 2007 hauntingly romantic My Blueberry Nights to Sherlock Holmes’ questioning companion, Dr Watson, Jude Law’s performance graph has been quite amazing. One also saw Law rubbing shoulders with Michael Caine in Sleuth -- as an unemployed actor who runs off with the wife of a rich novelist.
Law’s Pope seems no less scandalous in Sorrentino’s 10-episode television serial, The Young Pope -- two of which screened at the festival here -- running from August 31 to September 10.
In the opening sequence, the Pope walks to the balcony at the Vatican and addresses a mammoth crowd waiting to hear him. And he advocates freedom, sexual freedom. He advocates masturbation and abortion. But it turns out he was dreaming!
Sorrentino’s movie while purporting to be satire on the Vatican, very cleverly talks about all those issues which the Papal power has been soundly criticised. Sorrentino is known to be as controversial as Fellini once was, and his The Young Pope may well be intensely disliked by many.
In direct contrast to a recent Nanni Moretti film, We Have A Pope -- where a nervous, self-doubting Michel Piccoli refuses to take office and runs away, Sorrentino’s work has the Pope as arrogant and destructive. He is just 47 on the screen, and probably a lot more immature than what the Vatican would have expected out of a Pope.
The Young Pope tells the story of orphan Lenny Belardo who becomes the first American Pontiff in history and turns out to be one who shocks and surprises.
Watch: Trailer of The Young Pope
Handsome, Pius the XIII refuses to have his image on The Vatican products -- and all this, it seems, have been planned to transform himself into a mysterious figure. He has American filter coffee and Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast. He must have a look at all the gifts he has received.
Law told a media conference soon after The Young Pope was screened, “Like a ton of bricks it landed on me that I had to play a Pope and I didn’t quite know where to go or what work to do to offer it some weight and believability...But Paolo constantly reminded me that it was a piece about a man who happened to be the pope. Once I started approaching it from that point of view ... it started to come together.”
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Venice Film Festival)