HEART AND SOUL
Unconventional doc a touching portrait of Pope Francis, champion of the poor
In the 13th century, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone became Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order, advocate of brotherly love, and devoted to a life of poverty. Eight hundred years later, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became the Pope and chose the name Francis.
The saint and the Pontiff come together in Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. This new documentary from Wim Wenders (Pina, Buena Vista Social Club) makes no attempt to hide its respect for a man who is doing all he can to pull the behemoth that is the Catholic Church fully into the 21st century, while embracing the simplistic styles of his namesake.
“We must all consider if we can become a little poorer,” Francis says of this materialistic age.
This is not a biography in the
traditional sense — there’s almost no mention of what the 81-yearold was doing before being elected in 2013. Instead, we see the Pontiff travelling the world — often riding in a squat Fiat instead of a huge limo — dispensing his message of love to believers and non-believers alike.
Atheists may quibble with his statement that God loves us all (who is this God person anyway?), but he also notes that free will makes us fully capable of choosing not to return the feeling. Also, he calls the Biblical creation tale “a mythical form” of storytelling. And he reveals that as a priest he would sometimes shock parishioners in confession by interrupting them to inquire: “Do you play with your kids?” The answer, he believes, is more important than many a petty sin.
Wenders, who spent eight hours in one-on-one interviews with Francis, often allows the Pope to address the camera directly, as though speaking to viewers. It’s an oddly moving technique. And just as the director isn’t interested in the Pope’s early life, neither is he going to excavate the evils that have been done and continue to be done in the church’s name. This is a snapshot of one man making the best of the job he’s been given. The church needs more like him.
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word is a close look at the spiritual leader, whose empathy for the poor and disenfranchised sets him apart from many current world leaders.