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Monday, December 05, 2005

Pope John Paul II: The Movie

I debated whether or not I was going to watch the CBS 2 part movie on the life of Pope John Paul II, and my curiousity got the better of me.

Let me first say that I am hesitiant about any dramtization on him so soon after his departure from this life. I think that there is so much to his life and work and his philosophy and leadership changed the world for generations to come-I just believe it's a little early to be making bio-pics about him.

I was also prepared to be disappointed greatly. Call is cynicism, but whenever the American Media tried to show the Church they generally do a shoddy job of it. That or they make some subtle changes or nuances that seem just bad.

However this movies was not put together by the American media. Lux Vide was the producer of it. From their site:

After I got through my sobbing (I know it's not him but any look alike or pictures of Papa and I have to admit I still become overwhelmed-I know, I know, he's in Heaven, I can talk to him anytime now-which is great because now I don't have to buy a ticket to Italy!) I settled in to more objectively watch the presentation.

What struck me most is how innocent and exceptional the scenes of him as a young priest were portrayed. I mean, here is a young priest out on an excursion with other young people, lounging around and chatting-and there is NO sense of shame, of impropriety, or scandal. I say this not because of anything the late Holy Father had to hide, but because of the heightened sensitivity everyone has to priests spending casual time with young people in this post-Scandal time. It was well crafted and even inspiring.

I also enjoyed the scenes in the Vatican when they were voting. The Cardinals were never portrayed as the mean spirited, womanhating power hungry hierarchy that they often are in Hollywood, but it was a bit of an education for those who do not know what happens in those meetings. It was cool to see an Eastern rite Bishop (Cardinal?) as well as a variety of nationalities shown: Yes everybody, the Church is worldwide...

I may be lone in saying this, but I really enjoyed watching Cary Elwes play the young Karol Wojtywa. A departure from his sketchy or goofy characters I thought his portrayal was believable, mostly in the scenes where the Pope is portrayed as thinking or caring deeply about someone or something. It wasn't outstanding acting, but I thought it was pretty good given the material.

Which, let's face it folks: There is way more in this life than can be portrayed in 2 nights of drama. They picked out scenes from his life and made them chock full of information. Words that may not have been spoken at that scene were included to make full use of his life and his philosphies. If you want a complete rendering of JPII's life on DVD, get George Weigels' "Witness To Hope". PBS played it a few times (I know, huh? How did THAT happen?) and it is worth the money to buy. Excellent, just excellent.

As for the other actors, I loved seeing Christopher Lee on screen again (though I had just been watching him as Sauron in The Two Towers and my brain had to revise what I was seeing) I absolutely hated seeing James Cromwell play Sapieha. I must have seen him play under handed, backstabbing jerks, because I just couldn't shake the feeling that he was up to something sinister-and Sapieha wasn't sinister.

They did manage to slip in a great deal of JPII's words and I was astounded that they included his words on sexuality. And then release it here in the States? That's brave. Bold. Good stuff.

It seems that they took important scenes and stuffed them full of info. I suppose with a life like John Paul II's, they could be forgiven the attempt to cram it all in.

Overall, I would rate it about a B+. Let's see what tonight brings!


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