Though the Vatican is in Rome, the Italian relationship with the church is a little more complicated, and it’s reflected in the movies.
Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope)
In Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope), sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals are choosing the next Pope and each praying to God that he isn’t chosen, so here’s something I’d never considered: it isn’t exactly like hitting the lottery. It’s a monumental burden and the “winner” had better be up to the challenge.
The film’s “winner”, Melville, isn’t. Before he can even come out on the balcony at St. Peter’s to greet the masses, he has a giant panic attack and runs to hide. When all medical reasons for his behavior are exhausted, a therapist is reluctantly called, “the best in Rome”, played by Moretti. Given very limited parameters (no asking about his holiness’s mother, childhood, or faith) and with the cardinals all standing around watching Moretti tries to get to bottom of it as Melville continues to cry out “Non ce la faccio!” – “I can’t!”
Moretti doesn’t condemn, mock or humiliate the pope or the Vatican, he just brings the papacy to a human level.
Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) the right to die vs the right to make somebody live.
Bella Addormentata takes the true life story of the last six days of the life of Eluana Englaro, comatose for 17 years when her family fought for the right to pull the plug and let her die and it shows us, not what was happening to this family, but to various people around her. Guess which side the church is on in this conflict?
Marta (newcomer Yle Vianello) has lived most of her life in a more secular location in Switzerland and when the family returns to their native Calabria, she’s thrown into a Jesus Land that she is unfamiliar with. So that she’ll make friends and prepare for her Catholic confirmation, Marta’s mother puts her in the parish confirmation class.
The teacher is a woman that anyone familiar with a Catholic parish knows well. Every church has someone just like her; a lady that runs the show, a kind of “woman behind the man”, in this case the man is a priest. Don’t misunderstand me – the church needs her. In Marta’s parish, Santa (played by the virtually unknown Pasqualina Scuncia) selflessly toils to guide the young people of the church, organize celebrations and play housewife for the priest, who doesn’t appreciate any of it. Pasqualina Scuncia doesn’t seem to be acting – she is Santa, playing the role with astonishing credibility.
The priest, (Salvatore Cantalupo from Gomorrah) who is working behind the scenes to get out of the hick town that the parish is in and sees himself in a more influential job, has everyone under his thumb, and though this kind of arrangement is new to Marta, her mother, and her sister, and she go along with it.
Marta, who has no voice in this new land, says more with her eyes and her facial expressions than with words, and though she wants to please her over-worked mother, she isn’t buying it all and she has to draw a line somewhere. For this little girl, new to Jesus Land, it isn’t enough to just go through the motions for her confirmation. She wants to understand what she’s signing up for.
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
The 104 year old almost saint tells journalist Gep Gambardella, (Toni Servillo) , “I’m married to the poor. Poverty doesn’t tell; it lives”. Is she the only one in the movie that can recognize the world’s great beauty? Or is she just another imposter, pretending that she knows the meaning of life/
La Stanza Del Figlio (The Son’s Room)
A son dies and everyone is paralyzed. The father, played by Moretti, can’t work. The mother, played by Laura Morante, can’t contain her grief and makes every social interaction akward because of it. The daughter, played so naturally by Jasmine Trinca, is terrified watching her parents fall apart and fear manifests itself in inappropriate and angry outbursts.
Will a burial mass help ease their pain?
Politicians making deals and pushing through laws that line their pockets, organized crime, drugs, and church officials who are in it for themselves and not for God.