Wim Wenders returns to documentary film making to honour the current pope: Saint Francis. The film consists of original interviews with the man, footage of his visits to people all over the world and some original fictional footage of Pope Francis of Assassi to draw comparisons between the two men.
Wenders has previously decried the “hijacking” of his Christian faith. That being a Christian is now synonymous with being a right wing fundamentalist which he felt was totally against his Christianity which above else emphasised solidarity with the poor. It is clear, therefore why Francis appealed to him as a subject matter.
In interview Francis is asked about many aspects of modern life. He is asked about the immigration crisis, of war between faiths and of materialism and in all instances he urges compassion. He says we can all afford to be a little poorer to relieve the suffering of others. He demonstrates empathy for the unemployed young and the desperate immigrants. He is at one stage asked about child molestation in the church and provides a gratifyingly strong response of zero tolerance.
Even for non-believers it is important to note the lessons being preached by an important spiritual and, whether he likes it or not, political figure. As a non-believer I did find there was something humbling about the man and my experience of the film. To hear the tenants of socialism and equality or inclusiveness espoused so eloquently by a softly spoken old man who represents the highest office in one of the world’s largest religions did bring a tear to my eye. The film suggests that there may just be universal values that we can all relate to, that go beyond belief, and that there may well be much more that unites us than divides us. The film is, above all else, a beautiful humanist statement.
The man himself comes over as humble and deeply charismatic. He speaks very slowly and with great warmth. He proves himself to be bold in his humility. His address to congress proves to be a standout sequence but the simple power of the man is best demonstrated in his visits to refugee camps and prisons where his presence is gratefully received by the desperate and the lost.
Wenders filmmaking is, as always, beautiful. He takes a minimalist approach in his interviews with the pope but also utilises news footage and original footage of the Vatican to great effect. Although one can’t help but wish he would return to narrative film making, especially when faced with his gorgeous use of cinematography and editing.
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word is a wonderful exercise in inclusivity. By focussing on the values of the man which are universal, Wenders is able to make powerful statements about the importance of tolerance, humility and humour.
4 / 5