Text by – VIRGINIA STAGNI

Translation by – VIRGINIA STAGNI & CHIARA SCARFO’

 

Soundtrack music for readinghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPyOSBmqZec – Max Cameron – “Beat the Clock

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After the premiere on the 21st of October, with 953 thousand viewers for the first and second episode (an absolute record for a TV series debut on Sky), The Young Pope is running as one the best (if not the best) TV series of the year.

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I had the chance to meet the main character, Jude Law, here in London, as he was shooting a commercial for Lexus. Meeting him in person makes it possible to understand how acting in the role of the Pope must have been really complex for him. He is energetic, with a rapid gait; he speaks very quickly and transmits a dynamic charisma, particularly from his eyes. The charisma is fundamental for his character who, even before speaking, presents himself eloquently with his gesture and physical presence. Each of his movement is slow, suspended and thought in every detail. His posture is often stiff and compelled: it is, essentially, omnipresent.

My dislike towards tourists will never end. Because they are just passing through. 

set of "The young Pope" by Paolo Sorrentino. 09/18/2015 sc.441 - ep 4 in the picture Jude Law. Photo by Gianni Fiorito

set of “The young Pope” by Paolo Sorrentino 09/18/2015 sc.441 – ep 4 – Photo by Gianni Fiorito

 

The sainthood that, as a matter of fact, “cost me up to 14 hours of standing rather than to crease the dress”, the celebrity confessed. 

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Jude Law in Soho, London (Lexus set) 

 

The series, even before its debut, was sold by Fremantle Media International in more than 80 countries. With the territories already covered by the co-producing broadcasters (Sky, HBO, CANAL+, MediaPro), there are a total of 110 countries that are and will continue broadcasting the series.

Lenny Belardo, the orphan American pope, raised by the Oscar winner Dianne Keaton, is a subversive man who is constantly in contradiction with himself and his institution.

You could describe as laic the way Paolo Sorrentino observes the Vatican. Religion and clergy, as the director says, are only composed by humans. This social class, often depicted as either invincible (especially in the past) or perfidious (mostly in the present), here, instead, is observed as a group of people with light and darkness, strengths and weaknesses but, most of all, limits.

An honest and curious observation and research for authenticity for the narration of a figure that everybody,  Catholic or not, knows: the Pope.

Lenny is a human being on the lookout, he is a middle-aged (he is 47 years old) modern Odysseus, who intrigues the viewers. The Young Pope is a journey, both real and dreamlike, in the mind of a man who is God, one and triune, mortal and divine. “The chosen” that is a “contradiction”, as he said.

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A Pope who chooses mystery, who prefers denial to media exposure as a strategy for himself but also for the Church as an institution. Therefore, the exact opposite to Pope Bergoglio’s activity and to what the dreamt journey of the first episode seems to suggest (the shocking Homily of the new Pope in San Pietro, that encourages to play, masturbate and have sex: living The Freedom).

“I Do Not Exist”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmFcUUIVIeQ

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Since the first minutes of the show, the main character’s unbridled youth suggests a revolutionary pope, inclined to openness: notice Pio XIII’s greeting open arms during the homily, supporting this idea (as a gesture repeated a lot of times during the series – watch the trailer at the end of the article or this image).

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About that, fun fact: Sorrentino got inspiration from Pio XII’s pose after the bombing of San Lorenzo for this ‘open arms’ gesture: an unforgettable symbolic sign, clear in everyone’s imagination (mainly in Italy).

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Jude Law, as a declared football fan, was instead thinking about Wayne Rooney after his historic bicycle kick goal during the Manchester derby (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKLC7ITp3T0).

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But Lenny Belardo, a ‘chain smoker’, is found to be a lot less open-minded than what we would expect; actually, in some aspects, he is as conservative as a pre-conciliar.

Each frame deserves our attention for the accuracy of the symbol it contains. An example that permits us to do some highbrow speculation: notice how many times there is a close-up of only one eye.

The one eye aesthetics – helped by the captivating blue color of Law’s eyes –  isn’t new: I don’t want to fall into esoteric symbolism, but it seems obvious that the main character here is the Great Architect’s eye, an almost-universal and eloquent symbol of the Divine Providence, of the strength of God, who “sees and provides”.

The past is a very large place, you can find everything there. However, the present isn’t, it’s a small opening that can fit only a pair of eyes.  

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As we were saying, a contradicting character. Look at how the dualism is continuous, intrinsic in the choice of the shots: Pio XIII’s hat is white, angelic, virgin and pure: as a saint’s one. After a few seconds, on the left, the strongly human hand of the pope appears (with the color-changing pinkness of the skin) with a withered cigarette that emphasizes, in contrast to the divine white, the sparing speed of the earthly time that, restlessly, flows.

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A dialogue between joke and truth, game and seriousness, leading the viewers almost to paranoia while they wait, behind a Bernini’s column or a Michelangelo’s statue, the next turn of events (sooner or later even a kangaroo will appear…).

The photography and the lights are outstanding: they permit the celebration of the Vatican beauty, that, as always, leaves everybody speechless. Everything is combined with the dialogues worth of an Oscar award. So, it’s almost as if Sorrentino himself was talking when Pio XIII says: “Settling equals to die while living.

Extreme, strong, disruptive: the plot as the procedure chosen by Sorrentino to introduce his new intellectual product: the world of TV series. We had a premonition already with Gomorra the Series and Breaking Bad: with The Young Pope the distinction between cinema and series becomes definitively inexistent.

The Young Pope brings the auteur film into a TV series format: a mix between the vision of a genius Oscar winner, the irreproachable acting of the cast (the interpretation of Silvio Orlando is impressive, with his English breaded with just enough of a Neapolitan accent), with a photography that speaks for itself enough to almost distract.

Sorrentino, once again, breaks the schemes, mixing up revolutionary and conservative, political and antipolitical, Old and New Testament. As his young Pio XIII.

A clash between tradition and contemporaneity, art and cinematographic business, that, as always, fascinates and astonishes.

Honor to the disruptor, honor to The Young Pope.

 

The ten episodes of The Young Pope are on the screens from the end of October not only in Italy, but also in Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Austria and France. However, for it to reach the United States, we will have to wait until 2017.

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Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2ZFdepTu-w.

 

Photos credit: Ansa, La Stampa, Gianni Fiorito, Lexus.com, Rappler, Express.com, hbobinge, aecshowbiz, timeout

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