VENICE, Italy – It’s Jude Law’s first day as pope, and after dropping his nightgown to reveal the sort of toned backside to make nuns blush, he addresses the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square on the pleasures of masturbation.
Italian master Paolo Sorrentino’s first foray into the world of television series has produced a 10-part wonder set at the heart of the Vatican state, where the college of cardinals has just elected its first-ever American pope. (WATCH: Jude Law is ‘The Young Pope’ in teaser trailer)
Lenny Belardo, aka Pius XIII, is revealed in the first two episodes – premiered at the Venice film festival – as shrewd, ironical, doubting and ruthless, a boy who grew up in an orphanage who revels in his new power.
The Vatican’s secretary of state (Italy’s Silvio Orlando) at first hopes to manipulate him, and is left flummoxed by his new cigarette-smoking, cherry-Coke drinking, Machiavellian boss, before vowing to up his game.
Lenny’s “adoptive mother”, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) arrives at the Vatican and is quickly appointed personal secretary to her former charge, leaving the cardinals to wonder whether she is puppet master or put upon.
‘The Vatican’s problem’
The visuals and music are lush and heavily cinematic and the set replicates down to the smallest detail key locations inside the Holy See, giving the viewer an exceptional look into a secretive world of grandeur.
Asked by reporters at the beach-side festival whether he was worried the Vatican and Pope Francis may take offence at the clever, funny but biting tale, Sorrentino said it was “the Vatican’s problem not mine”.
“But if they watch to the end they will see it is a work that tackles with curiosity and honesty, not with a desire to provoke… the contradictions and difficulties, and fascinating lives of clergy, nuns and the pope,” he said.
While Francis insists on the Church opening its doors to the people, Pius XIII has but harsh words for his flock.
“The pope we have created is diametrically opposed to the real one, because that could happen. It is possible for a liberal pope to be followed by someone very different,” Sorrentino said.
“I think it’s illusory to believe that the Church has set off on a long journey towards liberalness. The pope (Francis) is not like ours, but it’s not far-fetched to think there could be such a one in the future.”
God and kangaroos
Law, who was expected to dazzle on the red carpet at the Venice Lido later Saturday, September 3 said he had been thrilled to work with Sorrentino, the man behind the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (2013) and Youth (2015).
“Paolo creates such a beautiful visual language, to find myself a color in his paintbox was a joy”.
“I was attracted to the idea of playing a character so rich in contradictions,” he said about Lenny, who appears to use the role of red-shoed pontiff as a mask and a means to working through his own issues.
“I think more than anything what worried me was the idea of playing a pope, a title, a public role, and Paolo (Sorrentino) reminded me constantly that it was really about a man who happened to be a pope.
“It’s a complicated, multi-layered character, and on top of that, it’s a character playing a character,” he said.
There are hints of something mystical to come from Pius XIII – particularly in one scene with a kangaroo – but, for now at least, the audience is kept guessing as to whether the blue-eyed pontiff even believes in God.
“Whether you agree or not with the things he says and the stands he takes, he is an honest man,” Law said. – Rappler.com