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Film / Pope John Paul II

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"This is the highest form of resistance: to give hope to those who have none."
Adam Sapieha

Pope John Paul II is a 2005 biopic distributed by CBS as a TV miniseries and directed and written by John Kent Harrison.

It covers the life of the 264th Pope, Saint John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła), the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, from his childhood in Wadowice, Poland through his election to the Papacy in 1978, up to his death in the Holy See in 2005.

It stars Jon Voight as Pope John Paul II, with Cary Elwes portraying younger Wojtyła in the 39 years (1939-1978) leading up to his election to the Holy See. It premiered on 17 November in Vatican City before airing on CBS on December 4 & 7, 2005.

Pope John Paul II contains examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist:
    • John Paul was horrified by the violence he witnessed throughout his life, i.e. in Poland under World War II's Nazis and then afterwards under post-war Soviet rule, and then as the international figure of Pope. He saw the new millennium as an opportunity for humanity to strive for peace between nations.
      Wojtyla: "Faced with this abyss of evil, I can only respond with an abyss of love".
    • There’s a late-World War II scene in the first part of the movie where his friend Marek sneaks up on and kills two Nazis, and Wojtyla is clearly shocked by this act.
  • Bookworm: When laughed at for reading poetry during his work in a wartime Nazi quarry, Wojtyla jokes “Man does not live by rocks alone!”
  • Dirty Communists:
    • John Paul II is given a great deal of credit for the fall of Communism, and the movie emphasizes this.
    • When his fellow laborers during World War II's early months express hope that Communist Russia will free them from the Nazis, Wojtyla says that “the Communists will never bring freedom, not for us, nor for anyone... I read their book. It's called 'The Manifesto' … They have created a religion, a religion that is based on Man as its center. For Communists, God doesn't exist. Neither does a human soul. They say they are for the workers but only if they'll give up their freedom and substitute God with the state.”
  • Elective Monarchy: The papacy.
  • Foreshadowing: "They’ll make him a monsignor sooner or later!"
  • Flashback: Much of the film is told as a flashback, since it opens with the 1981 assassination attempt.
  • Good Shepherd: John Paul is a perfect example. His mentor, Archbishop Sapieha, is too.
  • Holy City: The Vatican!
  • Icon of Rebellion:
  • Abp. Sapieha is referred to as the “Light of Poland”.
  • La Résistance:
    • Wojtyla’s secret seminary training, outlawed by the Nazi occupiers during World War II.
    • Also the religious procession he orchestrated in the 1960s under Soviet rule, which banned public displays of religious images. So the procession used an empty picture frame that the Black Madonna is usually placed in.
    • The Polish Home Army, who fare no better under the post-World War II Communists than they did under the wartime Nazis:
      Former Home Army Member: "I’m not your enemy."
      Soviet official: "Today, no. But tomorrow, perhaps you are." [Shoots him].
  • The Mentor: Cardinal Sapieha to Wojtyla, during his secret seminary training and his time as a priest.
  • Period Piece: Mostly during in flashback sequences that take place in Poland in his late 1920's and early 1930s childhood, World War II (1939-1945), post World War II's Soviet occupation and Cold War Communist regime and brief television footages watched by him in the Vatican: His first United States papal visit in 1979, Solidarity's birth in 1980, the East-bloc Revolutions of 1989, ex. Polish Legislative Elections 1989, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, the 9-11 attacks in 2001 and summoning to Rome of American bishops in 2002 regarding the then-new Catholic sex abuse scandal.
  • Puppet King: Well, bishop. Averted, as Karol is appointed Archbishop of Krakow because of his reputation as a stuffy intellectual who cares more about books and hiking than about social change. Whoops.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: When the early 1950s Polish Communists suddenly order Fr. Wojtyla, then a counselor to Krakow collegians, and his friends off a newly-forbidden piece of land, Karol assures them "yes, yes, we will go.” But they didn’t tell him how to leave, so they depart via canoe down the river.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Very abruptly. Elwes enters the conclave, Voight exits it.
  • Turbulent Priest: John Paul II, naturally, but also Krakow's Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha of Krakow, who causes the then-new post-World War II Soviet officials in 1945 to mutter “this priest (Sapieha) has got to be removed!”
    • When Fr. Karol takes his friends outside the city, they refer to him as "uncle", since it was forbidden for priests to preach outside of a church.
  • Utopia: Nowa Huta ("New Town"), the post-World War II “workers paradise” imagined by the Soviets. But it’s a False Utopia, since there is no church in its design.