Pope Francis to grace the silver screen | Film | DW | 02.12.2015
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Pope Francis to grace the silver screen

Italian cinema-goers can look forward to a new film about the life of Pope Francis. But it's not his only movie. In Germany, heartthrob actor Matthias Schweighöfer also has a film in the works.

"Call Me Francesco," a biographical film on the Pope's life, opens in cinemas in Rome, Florence and Milan on Thursday (03.1.2015). Outside of Italy, it's slated for release in March, coinciding with the third anniversary of the beginning of his papacy.

Directed by Daniel Luchetti, one of Italian cinema's most significant figures, the film isn't PR for the Catholic leader and doesn't shy away from criticism.

Argentinean actor Rodrigo de la Serna takes the role of the Pope. The film traces his early years, before Jorge Mario Bergoglio rose through the ranks of the Catholic Church. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bergoglio was a Jesuit priest in Argentina and spoke out against the military dictatorship.

Favorite film star: the Pope

The film is just one of several current projects focusing on the world's most famous clergy. Since September, Beda Docampo Feijóo's film "Francisco - El Padre Jorge" has been showing in Spanish and Argentinean cinemas. The biographical work also portrays the Pope's path from his early years in Argentina to his papal election.

Jude Law in The Young Pope, Copyright: Sky, HBO, Wildside 2015

Jude Law takes on an unusual role in the new HBO series

Italian Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino recently completed the eight-part mini-series "Il giovane papa," which is scheduled to be released next year in Italy and the US. In yet another multi-part film series produced by US broadcaster HBO, and co-produced by Sky and Canal+, "The Young Pope" features Hollywood star Jude Law in the role of a fictional Pope Pius VIII. Diane Keaton and Ludivine Sagnier appear in supporting roles.

Popes may not be your typical movie stars, but there's no shortage of film material featuring the Catholic leaders over the years. In 1965, Ermanno Olmi made the drama "A Man Named John" starring Rod Steiger as John Paul II. Another memorable work was Nanni Moretti's epic "We Have a Pope" in 2011, in which Michel Piccoli authentically portrayed the weary, publicity-shy leader.

Popes leave room for fiction

In Germany, Sönke Wortmann turned actress Johanna Wokalek into "Pope Joan" in 2009. Three years later, Marcus H. Rosenmüller directed "Wer's glaubt, wird selig," with Austrian actor Nikolaus Paryla as Pope Innocence XIV.

Matthias Schweighöfer, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa

Matthias Schweighöfer as the pope?

These days, pope films tend to be relatively light fare, not only dramas or philosophical commentaries, as was Greek-French director Constantin Costa-Gravas' 2002 work, "Z." The political-drama specialist adapted the scandalous 1962 play "The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy" and revealed just how little the Catholic Church had done to prevent the Holocaust. Romanian actor Marcel Iureș portrayed Pope Pius XII.

Now German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, known for comedies that often touch on gender differences, aims to break his own stereotype and tackle a serious film. Along with actors Til Schweiger and Bully Herbig, Schweighöfer - currently Germany's best-paid actor - is planning to film the life of German Pope Benedict XVI. Titled "Pontifex," the movie is based on a book by journalist Peter Seewald and slated for release in Germany in 2016.

It's not yet clear who will play Pope Benedict XVI. Schweighöfer is too young for the part - though the makeup experts are capable of miracles.

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