Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)

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Direction: Wim Wenders
Country: Switzerland / Germany / other

Perceiving the turbulent times we’re living today is not an easy task and master documentarian Wim Wenders (Pina; The Salt of the Earth) felt the urgency of spreading Pope Francis’ noble ideals and message. He did it in a simple yet compelling way in Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, a documentary where the pontiff’s inspirational words of wisdom echo like bombs in our deaf ears.

This pope, the first to choose the name Francis, lives according to the humble ways of his inspirer, St. Francis of Assisi. He talks about the problems of the modern world without avoiding any sensitive matter. No wonder he points out wealth as the bigger temptation of the church and politicians, naming it God’s highest antagonist. Instead of wasting time dividing religions, he calls brother to every man, at the same time that shows a deep understanding of their choices, paths, and milieus.

Amidst the serious and thoughtful considerations about unemployment, deliberate onslaughts against Mother Earth, pedophilia in the church, gender equality, immigration, and the importance of listening to what others have to say, the pope still finds the courage to throw in funny lines about husband-wife relationships and coping with mothers-in-law. With an overt smile, he makes reference to a prayer for good humor by St. Thomas More. He is so charismatic and unequivocal in his sayings that I could be seated a couple more hours and listen to his recommendations.

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Wenders opted for a type of interview in which he concedes the pope enough space to talk directly to the camera, emulating a face-to-face interaction with us, the viewers. Even if his direction feels more competent than brilliant, he deserves credit for making sure the film progresses with no topic redundancy or unnecessary delays. A pertinent parallelism with the life of St. Francis is made, and for this purpose, black-and-white images are exhibited in a classic style.

The true star here is the pope himself, not only a man of his word, but also a man of impressive openness, humbleness, and fearlessness when speaking the embarrassing truth. He delivers the real message. Words that could help us save the planet, be better persons, and pull us out of this shameful idolatry of money and apathy in the face of injustice.

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Submergence (2018)

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Directed by Wim Wenders
Country: Germany / USA / other

72-year-old Wim Wenders is one of the inevitable figures of the European cinema. His work includes masterpieces such as “Paris Texas”, “Wings of Desire”, “Kings of the Road”, and “Alice In the Cities”, which deserved all the accolades they got. However, the current phase of his directorial career is not so strong, with the fictional films failing to match the much more compelling documentaries like "Pina" and "The Salt of the Earth". This fact hampers him from standing out again as a primary filmmaker.

Based on the novel of the same name by J.M. Ledgard and with a questionable adaptation from Erin Digman (“The Last Face”), “Submergence” depicts a bitter memory of a fine romance lived in the French Normandy between Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander), a biomathematician, and James Moore (James McAvoy), a Scottish agent under the cover of a water engineer. While she is on the verge of embarking on a pioneering diving into the deep Atlantic in a submersible to collect valuable samples, he is heading to East Africa in a classified mission. Once there, Somali jihadist fighters make him a hostage, and torture becomes a painful endurance.

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Immersed in flashbacks, the drama lacks intensity, being progressively engulfed by irregular, often dispassionate waves of longing. The anguished Danielle can’t focus on her work since James became unreachable. In her mind, she questions if he just lost interest in her or is simply stuck somewhere with no communication. Yet, after some time, she lets go the latter possibility. James’ imprisonment, filled with numerous backs and forths and torturous oscillations, fails to engage us in its dualities: friend or enemy, salvation or perdition, compassion or aggression. Also, the pace doesn't facilitate our empathy.

The episodes involving the characters have no other link tying them besides the ephemeral love affair, and Wenders couldn’t avoid falling into a protracted, unexciting, and often sloppy exercise that never brought much satisfaction or hope.

The emotional agitation resultant from lovesickness could have pushed the film forward, but the heavy-handed narrative together with Spanish-born Fernando Velázquez’s annoying score make us all stuck too, waiting for the pointless ending to arrive.

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