The Young PopeVenice Film Festival 2016
Christianity stands alone as the world’s largest religion, yet the inner workings of the Holy See is one still shrouded in papal mystery. Paolo Sorrentino seeks to lift that veil with his highly controversial mini-series The Young Pope, which sees 47-year-old American, Lenny Belardo (Jude Law), beat all odds as the newly elected Pontiff.
Belardo is everything a Pope isn’t: rude, abrasive and, more importantly, completely inexperienced, a trait that the cunningly ambitious Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) hoped to exploit by the means of puppetry. However, Voiello’s plan seemingly backfires as it appears that the protagonist has a very different idea of how his papacy will run. Donning the title Pius XIII, Belardo and Voiello begin a Machiavellian game of cat and mouse, as each assay to gain the upper hand and control of power.
The plot is somewhat meatier than Sorrentino’s previous works, though his signature style is still very much apparent in the beautifully artistic, yet somewhat surreal visuals, which often add more confusion than substance. This first episode begins, for example, with Law emerging through a crawlspace formed in a mountain of sleeping babies. For the most part though, The Young Pope brings something gritty and new to the screen, pushing boundaries many would not dare to even brush.
Law is excellent as young Belardo, harnessing the arrogance and ambition needed to play a character who demands Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast and makes friendly, age-old nuns shed a silent tear (a moment that really tugs your heart strings). Yet the icing on the cake has to be the casting of Diane Keaton as Sister Mary, a role that will be interesting to see develop as the series progresses.
Causing a bit of fuss at this year’s festival, and with a second season already in the bag, Sorrentino’s transition to the small screen seems to be already a great success. One can only hope The Young Pope lives up to the expectations of the eagerly awaiting public.
The Young Pope will be aired on Sky Atlantic in October 2016.