16.06.2021
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New New Testament

A little about the second part of «The Young Pope» series

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The second season of «The Young Pope» was released this winter. After the success of the first part of the series about the Vatican intrigues (in Italy, the premiere of the first two episodes scored the highest rating in the entire history of the pay TV network Sky, even overtaking Game of Thrones), expectations from Paolo Sorrentino’s «The New Pope» were really high. Read about how this continuation turned out in this very article.
The Paolo Sorrentino's series is back: now we have two popes
The Paolo Sorrentino’s series is back: now we have two popes

«The New Pope» turned out to be largely unlike the «Young» — but this is only at first glance. The viewer focus has shifted from Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) to Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich). If Pius XIII manifested himself in the affairs of the Church as a tough and unshakable conservative, then John Paul III, with his romantic nature, chooses a moderate development path. They are like two poles, promising Catholics from all over the world absolutely different options for the future.

I love God because it is so painful to love human beings (c) Lenny Belardo
I love God because it is so painful to love human beings (c) Lenny Belardo

It is important that Sorrentino does not force the viewer to make a choice between the popes: he makes them both imperfect and make us believe that they are just ordinary people, not gods. In this way, Belardo and Brannox are similar: they have drawbacks. Both pontiffs have the same sore spots: loneliness, doubts about themselves and their abilities, childhood traumas, fear of love. In the end, all this leads them to a common dream — both popes want to be forgotten.

The immense imperfection of the world makes Sir John Brannox cry
The immense imperfection of the world makes Sir John Brannox cry

In «The New Pope» Sorrentino continues to explore the eternal problems that he has already raised in the first season. As for philosophical questions, here are the relations of the believers and God, trust in miracles, the search for a prepared place in life; as for essential ones — the problem of fathers and children, cruelty, war, fanaticism, as well as the perception of homosexuality. In the new season, the topic of terrorism is also added to this list. Exactly this theme (even to a greater extent than the struggle for power) became the basis of the conflict between the two popes in the last episode: each of them sees his own way out of the emergency situation.

Goodness, unless it’s combined with imagination, runs the risk of being mere exhibitionism
Goodness, unless it’s combined with imagination, runs the risk of being mere exhibitionism

Withdrawal of the Law’s hero to the background is compensated by a detailed disclosure of characters which were secondary in the first part. Marketer of the Holy See Sofia Dubois, Cardinal Mario Assente, young nuns are no longer observers: in «The New Pope» passions are gathering around them too. Now these characters play a role not only in revealing the characters of the popes. Their personal stories, which splashes onto the screen in different forms of expression, worth particular interest.

Do not forget: everyone has vices in the walls of the Vatican
Do not forget: everyone has vices in the walls of the Vatican

«The New Pope» is filmed with Paolo’s inherent love of visual cultural codes and aesthetics. However, the aesthetics of the second season is significantly different from the aesthetics of the first. Sure, there are still many works of art, and the sophistication of the outfits exclusively prepared by Giorgio Armani leads to a viewer’s delight. Nevertheless, «The New Pope» turned out to be more defiant than the «Young»: it has a lot of physicality and frankness, which is now not only sensual, but also noticeable to the eye. Dancing of half-naked nuns at the neon cross and Jude’s passage in dazzling white swimming trunks along the beach are good examples. Probably, the «bodily» beauty of Pius XIII, deliberately expressed in this season, can be regarded as a veneration of him as a pagan idol, to the rank of which he was raised by fanatics. You can interpret this directorial decision as a desire to return in his narrative to the origins of religion — the moment when the spiritual rigor dictated by Christianity has not arrived yet. At the same time, it can be considered to be just an experiment with a visual series: in one of the interviews, Sorrentino admitted that many images come to him simply subconsciously and do not carry a special semantic load.

Some people were charmed by the new screen saver, while others others were outraged
Some people were charmed by the new screen saver, while the others were outraged

All in all, the series introduces us to religion through beauty (including bodily). It is specially made so to entice viewers to think about religion, faith, God and … about man himself. «The New Pope» provocatively hits us in the most vulnerable places. Through quite obvious claims to the universe, he brings our consciousness to the questions to which, as we learn from Lenny in the final, there are no answers.

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