Saint and sinner
Confession time: Jude Law and Diane Keaton in The Young Pope.
Jude Law is a very unconventional pontiff causing mayhem in the Vatican in stunning new drama The Young Pope, writes Claire Henderson.
British movie star Jude Law (The Holiday and Cold Mountain) is gracing the small screen as a handsome, troubled pontiff in The Young Pope, a stunning cinematic series coming to SBS about the Vatican. The lavish 10-episode series, which boasts beautiful cinematography, follows the fictional story of orphan Lenny Belardo (Law), who becomes the newly elected Pius XIII – the youngest and first American Pope in history. Assumed to be progressive and liberal-minded, Lenny confounds expectations when he reveals himself to be a conservative anti-establishment subordinator who seems to take great pleasure in openly despising the cardinals, hates gays, tourists and freedom, and even claims not to believe in God. He challenges the Vatican with his strong ideas and it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else – first seen when he reverses a Vatican smoking ban introduced by his predecessor John Paul II – but only for himself. In fact, Pope Pius XIII is a mysterious and contradictory figure all round – despite his menacing ways, he can also be charming, modern and resolute. As Lenny says when asked who he is: “I am a contradiction. I’m God: one in three and three in one. Like Mary, virgin and mother. Like man, good and evil.” took in orphaned Lenny and brought him up in a convent. Childhood is a strong theme that runs through the series – right from the opening scene, which shows Lenny crawl out from under a huge pile of unmoving babies – as the identity of the man formally known as Pope Pius XIII unravels. “It all comes back to this in the end, doesn’t it? To the mother”. Lenny’s search for God
“Childhood is a strong theme that runs through the series – right from the opening scene, which shows Lenny crawl out from under a huge pile of unmoving babies – as the identity of the man formally known as Pope Pius XIII unravels.”
Created and directed by Italian Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), this high quality piece of work features an all-star cast, including Diane Keaton, who plays Sister Mary, the nun who eventually coincides with his search for his parents – which is in danger of tormenting his entire relationship with the faith. Law said of his character in a recent interview: “It isn’t trying to shock. It would be more shocking if Lenny was having rent boys up to the Vatican and smoking pot. But he’s not. He’s a conservative. In fact, he’s a prude. He’s homophobic, he’s anti-divorce, he’s anti-abortion and all those things are in the scriptures. He’s standing up for things we know are questionable within the rules.” One of Sorrentino’s strengths is his meticulous addition of quirky little details, such as Pope Pius XIII being addicted to Cherry Coke Zero. The show even stars a kangaroo, with the Pope given one as a gift from Australia when he is elected. Law is in fine form in the white robes – this is undoubtedly one of the best roles he has played in years. So just who is Pope Pius XIII – a ruthless tyrant, a narcissist or just a lost boy? This sleek, mesmerising show will keep you guessing. Expect the unexpected. The Young Pope, SBS, Wednesday, 10.30pm and SBS On Demand from today.