Although The Shoes of the Fisherman is not one of my top shelf movies, Anthony Quinn who plays the lead character has become a favorite actor of mine recently and his name will show up frequently in future posts. I took the opportunity to view this movie again this weekend because of obvious Papal themes that are relevant with the recent resignation of Pope Benedict.
Like many of the movies that I love so much The Shoes of the Fisherman will stay with you days after watching it. Anthony Quinn plays a Ukrainian Bishop, Kiril Lakota, who is released from a prison camp by the Soviet Premier played by Laurence Olivier who had previously run the prison the Kiril was jailed. Kiril is immediately flown to the Vatican to meet with a fictional Pope Pius XII played by John Gielgud. Pope Pius explains that he desires Kiril be elevated to Cardinal. Kiril initially rejects the elevation at first but reluctantly accepts the “promotion”.
Of course the Pontiff dies shortly after the elevation of Cardinal Kiril and a Papal Conclave is undertaken. There are seven ballots (I love when movies use numbers to tell a story) and a compromise candidate is decided on when the conclave can not agree between two of the more deserving candidates. Cardinal Kiril takes uses his baptismal name and becomes Pope Kiril I.
The world is on the brink of Nuclear war because of concerns between The Soviet Union and China which made worse because of a famine induced by U.S.S trade sanctions. Pope Kiril announces to the crowds in St. Peters Square at his Papal Coronation that he plans to give away the Churches riches and urges other Western Nations to follow the Vatican’s lead.
Kiril proves to be both an everyman and worldly diplomat when he finds himself stealing away through the streets of Rome without being recognized and later returns to Russia to meet the Soviet Premiere (Olivier) and the Chinese Chairman to avert the possible nuclear standoff.
As I said current events have made this film more dear to me then it otherwise would be and having an opportunity to peek inside the Sistine Chapel to eavesdrop on the College of Cardinals during a Papal Conclave is not to be missed. An interesting choice made by the filmmakers was to use a reporters live news reports as a device to explain much of the lesser known traditions of the College of Cardinals such as how the College of Cardinals vote and the relevance of the white and black smoke.
If you are like me The Shoes Of The Fisherman is a movie that will keep you on your couch watching it a second time.