All eyes are focused on the Vatican, hoping to see the traditional puffs of white smoke that signal the selection of the next Pope. But this time, much more is at stake. The new pontiff may be the only person who can bring... more » peace to a world hovering on the edge of nuclear nightmare. Year: 1968 Director: Michael Anderson Starring: Anthony Quinn, Oskar Werner, David Janssen, Vittorio De Sica, Leo McKern, Sir John Gielgud« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This epic film has a few bumpy moments, but overall, it's vastly entertaining, with its fascinating cast, interesting premise, excellent cinematography and art direction.
Anthony Quinn is fabulous as the Russian Pope. It's a powerful portrayal, and not the type of role one would normally associate with him. Oskar Werner, in a part based on Teilhard de Chardin, is absolutely superb.Other notable performances come from Laurence Olivier (as the Soviet Premier), John Gielgud (former Pope), Leo McKern and Vittorio de Sica (Cardinals), and Arnoldo Foa (the Pope's valet).
The part of a journalist (David Janssen), is used as a narrator, to move the plot along, and explain certain Vatican procedures, like how a new Pope is elected. I only wish less time had been spent on his petty romantic problems...the film feels more like an "Airport" movie while these scenes are taking place.This is a sprawling 60's Hollywood treatment of Morris West's best seller, and I think it succeeds. It's thought-provoking, good for several viewings, and Quinn and Werner are riveting."
Fascinating Glimpse At Papal Succession
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 05/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With the recent passing of Pope John Paul II--and the subsequent Conclave of Cardinals to select his successor--this film came to mind. Although it was years since I've seen THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN, I was able to view it recently, and the pageantry, tradition, and ritual of the Conclave overwhelmed and impressed me once again.
Anthony Quinn gives a remarkable performance as Father Kiril Lakota, a Russian political prisoner freed by the Kremlin and dispatched to the Vatican, where he becomes a Cardinal. Quinn's Kiril is soft-spoken and humble, yet all his years of suffering in Siberia have convinced him the Church must champion human rights--even if blood is shed for that very cause. His subtle teachings impress his fellow Cardinals, and, when the current Pope dies, after several insufficient votes during the Conclave, Kiril becomes a darkhorse candidate and is eventually selected--despite his vigorous protestations. Thus concludes the first half of this film, which was fascinating.
The second half of the movie deals with Pope Kiril's coronation and infant papacy; here, unfortunately, the film becomes a bit too farfetched. (Example: On the evening of his selection as Pope, Kiril sneaks out of the Vatican and wanders the streets of Rome. Another example: Kiril's brokerage of a "deal" between Russia and China to avoid a nuclear war.) The Cold War was certainly topical when this film was made in 1968, yet now much of the plot of the second half comes across as contrived and banal--especially Pope Kiril's speech at St. Peter's Square on the day of his coronation.
Despite these flaws, THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN is grand drama and allows the viewer access to the Vatican behind closed doors. The cast has considerable star power, including Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud. Oskar Werner provides an interesting subplot in his portrayal as Father David Telemond, a Vatican scholar under fire for his unorthodox beliefs. The debate and dialogue between this character and his Vatican counterparts pertaining to a cosmological Supreme Being is absolutely riveting. This film is definitely worth a look for those interested in ecclesiastical study. --D. Mikels"
Deserving of a heavenly rating
Carolyn Rowe Hill | Ann Arbor, Michigan | 04/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1968 movie was based on the book, The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Morris West, and stars Anthony Quinn. I saw the movie first, then read the book, which helped me understand the book, although they are quite different (Hollywood, you understand). The movie does a superb job of helping the lay person, and non-Catholics, understand the process of electing a new Pope. Quinn is excellent as Kiril Lakota, a Russian eventually elected to the Papacy after the current Pope dies (circa 1963, the time of John XXIII's death).
Lakota is imprisoned in Siberia for 20 years (17 in the book) and tormented by his jailer, Kamenev. Kamenev, who later becomes the head of the Soviet state, eventually frees Kiril Lakota. Lakota goes to Rome where finds he's been made a Cardinal. He takes his place at the Vatican among his peers. Sometime thereafter, the Pope dies and Lakota, the dark horse, is elected to the Papacy.
The viewer not only learns much about the process of electing a new Pope, but has the opportunity to see inside the physical structure of the Vatican. It is breathtakingly beautiful. There is real footage, including scenes of the crowds in St. Peter's Square awaiting word, the black/white smoke being released from the conclave after a vote, the processional after the election of Pope Kiril, among others. The viewer is privy to the internal conflicts that plague some of the Cardinals, including major characters Cardinal Leone and Cardinal Rinaldi. Each is aware that his shortcomings make him an unlikely papal candidate.
Thrown into the mix is a subplot surrounding unfaithful newsman George Faber, his wife, his mistress, and his job. Then there's the desperate world hunger situation with which the new Pope must contend. With his past, Pope Kiril is in a unique position to influence a solution before disaster strikes. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Pope Kiril disguises himself as a priest and sneaks out of his lonely quarters to walk the streets of Rome to see how his people live. He ends up visiting a dying man.... Well, you'll just have to see it for yourself!
One character to watch closely in this movie is theologian, Father David Télémond (First name is Jean in the book), played by Oskar Werner. His performance is definitely of Oscar quality (no pun intended), and there are those who will feel they know who, in real life, Werner is actually portraying. In Télémond's intense internal struggle to justify God to man, he writes. His writings, often in conflict with the views held by his fellow Cardinals and the tenets of Church, relate Télémond's personal and very passionate views about God, Jesus, and the Church, as each relates to the people of the world, and to science. With the threat of being silenced (no more writing!), he is asked to come before a panel of his brethern in an attempt to explain to them what his theories and writings mean to the Church, Catholicism, and the rest of the world.
The movie, of course, takes many liberties, simplifies and leaves out much. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words; and the thousand pictures portrayed in this movie go a good distance in helping the viewer better understand some of the complexities of the Catholic Church.
Carolyn Rowe Hill "
A wonderful film, rich in detail, with a brilliant cast.
D. Mikels | 02/01/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is on my personal list of all-time favorites. Anthony Quinn portrays a decent, thoughtful, and forward-looking pope who eventually overcomes his own self-doubts concerning his election and coronation, which takes place within a backdrop of possible conflict between China, the USSR, and the United States. His attitude toward the young priest who assists him is refreshing in the fact that, while the priest has been barred from teaching and writing due to his questionable views, Pope Kiril still considers him a close personal friend and keeps him in his official family. Kiril's momentous decision at the end of the film regarding the role of the Church is somewhat far-fetched but nevertheless satisfying.The detail of the sets and costumes is brilliant. The scenes featuring the conclave in the Sistine Chapel are some of my favorites, as they really show in some detail what the election of a pope is like (the rules regarding election have been changed somewhat since the film's release) I remember reading somewhere that the director asked permission to film in the real Sistine Chapel, but was refused. The walls of the Sistine Chapel set were composed largely of cardboard. I am uncertain about the accuracy of that account, but it doesn't seem too unbelievable. The only disappointing parts of the film involve Janssen's TV commentator role. They are silly for the most part (revolving around his marital problems), and seem to serve no purpose but to set a background for the moment when his estranged wife runs into Pope Kiril, who is incognito, in the streets of Rome (you'll see what I mean when you watch the film). I've seen the film many times, and I usually fast-forward through the scenes of marital discord. When looking for a good laugh, I'll play the whole thing through. Laurence Olivier is excellent in the role of the Soviet premier and John Gielgud also shines as Kiril's predecessor, the fictitious Pius XIII (identified only by the name on his fisherman's ring which is shown for a split second, and is destoyed by the cardinals after his death)All in all, this movie is an enjoyable trip through the Vatican at the height of the Cold War."
THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN
Allen Eaton | Longmont, CO USA | 08/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have enjoyed thie film since it's release in 1968. Afterwards, I read not only this book but others by Morris L. West. I understand the need of Hollywood in the '60s to create a "movie" and adding non-dramatic story subplots. I also remember seeing this with audiences at the time of release, and their absolute fascination with the process of electing a pope as well as the "inquiry" in Father Telemond's beliefs. We all thought that this was the film's true power, not whether David Janssen would go back to his wife (why would she take him back, anyway?). In the novel, Telemond is a much older French priest, about Pope Kiril's age. West uses this character (and the print news reporter George Faber) to explore his own strong feelings about the Catholic Church. If the film would have stuck to that theme, instead of trying to be a blockbuster (which it nearly was), it might have wound up as a "must see" in film history. You can skip forward through certain parts of the film and still enjoy its overall impact."