Eye For Film >> Movies >> Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word (2018) Film Review
Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word
Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze
"Time flies," Wim Wenders says off camera, as we look down over the town of Assisi, at the beginning of Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word. If you catch yourself finishing that sentence in your mind with "when you're having fun," you are not at all on the wrong track, because fun, or as Pope Francis puts it, the importance to "enjoy life" is as much part of the thrust communicated here as is "the dignity of work" or the quest for "fraternal peace."
The insightful and intimate interviews Wenders conducted with the Pope are interspersed with footage of his extensive travels that show the meaning of his words. He washes the tattooed feet of a US prisoner and caresses the head of a deadly sick child in an African hospital. In the Philippines, right after the typhoon, we see him in the mist, wearing the same transparent yellow rain poncho as everybody else in the crowd.
"If we can all become a bit poorer" Francis suggests, the world could become a better place. He diagnoses wealth as a security blanket while we see him visit a favela in Rio de Janeiro and speak in a suburb of Naples about the 40% unemployment rate for the young. Things have to change, "work is the most noble thing we have." And then there is the importance of play. "Do you play with your children?" he inquires from families - a very serious question.
"Who is the poorest of the poor?" he asks at one point. "Mother Earth", is the answer, who suffers from our maltreatment and what he calls our "culture of waste." By that he means not just the garbage floating in the water but also the one poisoning our minds.
Indifference is killing us. "God created us free," Francis states and "without freedom we cannot love." He speaks at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, we see him walk through the gate at Auschwitz, on a boat off the coast of Lampedusa (the crisis is documented in Gianfranco Rosi's urgent Fuocoammare) and in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Wenders's film, beautifully edited by Maxine Goedicke (Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado's luminous The Salt Of The Earth) shows how much we need people like Francis. We see the genuine joy on his face when he looks at children's drawings. He addresses the US Congress, where he pronounces in English, slowly, deliberately: "The land of the free and the home of the brave" and there is barely a dry eye in the place.
Pope Francis is not only the first Jesuit and the first Pope from the Americas, he is also the first to take the name Francis after Francis of Assisi who chose a life of poverty and whose strong bond to nature was at the core of his teaching.
During an interview Wenders conducted with the Pope outside, with trees in the background, you can hear the very distinct sound of one bird, lovely and bright and clear, as if it were commenting on his words. More so than the re-staging of Francis of Assisi wandering through his ancient town and the surrounding landscape that Wenders filmed with an old original camera from the 1920s, it is this little unseen bird that makes the Saint come alive and ties him to his 21st century namesake.
"The more power you have, the more humble you have to be," is a directive that needs constant reminders.Reviewed on: 18 May 2018