Picking up where I left off.

After we filmed in Argentina, The Pope had to take a two-month break and that’s why I stopped writing. Now we’re back. I’m in Rome and we’ve resumed filming. Finally.

This Easter, I decided to avoid the crowds in the Vatican and went to Via Flaminia, where De Sica filmed the last sequence of The Bicycle Thief. This is one of the iconic films of the Italian neo-realist movement whose grammar has always interested me. I’m not one to ask for autographs or take selfies with famous people, or cultivate the history of cinema, but the final sequence of this film really touches me, and I wanted to take a walk, so I decided to see this location and take these photos. I’ve never chased Pokémon, but I enjoyed myself trying to find his angles and imagining the order in which he shot the sequence. It’s great not having anything to do.

For those who haven’t seen The Bicycle Thief, here is a spoiler: The film tells the story of a postwar man who’s desperately looking for work to support his family. He finally gets a job putting up movie posters, but he needs a bicycle to do it. He gets his bicycle out of the pawn shop by selling his wife’s most precious possession, sheets – feel the drama – but his bicycle is stolen. A large part of the film is the story of him accompanying his 7 year old son walking around trying to find the bicycle. The worst thing is that he knows who stole it and curses the guy. In the final sequence, after an internal conflict, he decides to steal a bicycle that is just standing there on Via Flaminia.

He takes the bike and flies away, but he’s followed, caught and almost lynched right in front of his son. When the group that has caught him takes him to the police station, the owner of the bicycle appears. Jorge Furtado says that this guy appears at most for 6 seconds on the screen and says almost nothing, but he’s one of the most beautiful characters in film history. I have to agree. He looks at the father and then the son, pauses, and says to the group: “- Lascia Stare”.   – Let it go. He takes the bicycle and leaves in peace.

I love this guy. I admire someone who can see who someone else is and forgive that person. Showing solidarity and forgiveness is called mercy, and mercy seems to be a central theme of Pope Francis. If it isn’t true in reality, at least in this film it is.

It was only when I returned from Via Flaminia that the penny dropped that both of these films, in different ways, deal with the same subject. Perhaps it’s because of this idea of tolerance that this screenplay interested me in the first place. It’s the same reason that made me like the guy who left on his bicycle in the photo below.

Forgiveness is a theme that recently has always been present in my conversations with the actors. It has also become a topical theme these days, when so many people have so much certainty and now have a place to argue their views. We know that certainty is the mother of intolerance and the social networks are the home of the haters.

As I’ve said in one of the previous texts (or did I?) Ratzinger in the screenplay is depicted as a tougher guy who doesn’t change his point of view. Such a character is easier to understand as the antagonist of Bergoglio the “transformer.” But Hopkins, or Tony as he likes to be called, has dived deep into this role and has slowly found his humanity, making him more tolerant and wise. We’ve exchanged many emails about scenes and dialogue while we were waiting to return to work, and I’ve translated here a portion of one of his emails where he touches precisely on this point of tolerance and forgiveness. I hope it’s not being invasive to share this. In the email he tells me what will be in Ratzinger’s mind when he meets Bergoglio again the night after an ugly argument that they had one afternoon. This is Tony’s text – the observations are his.

…the discussion of a few hours ago is now in the past. Forgotten. So many issues …Ratzinger admires Bergoglio – he can’t agree with most of his views – but he isn’t stupid. “Bergoglio just talks too much…” So, in this way a warm friendship begins.

I always find it moving to watch documentaries from the end of the war. German officials under arrest and British officials saluting them – the exchanges of respect and courtesy as professional soldiers …Today, it’s all evil and hatred and, there’s no way to see the other point of view – it’s a dangerous world. Years ago, I was acting in a film – A Bridge Too Far – and the British officials who accompanied us during the filming in the Netherlands – they were technical consultants – battle survivors – and other consultants also came who were retired German generals. They all got together in the hotel, drank and reminisced – all their antagonism and bitterness has passed – disappeared – and years ago, they would have all tried to kill each other …

It’s very beautiful to see how he has mixed his own experiences and feelings with this character to be able to live it with authenticity. Later, I’ll ask him if he’ll let me post longer excerpts of his reflections on the work process.

In The Pope, both of the popes need to forgive each other for the mistakes they’ve made, and mainly forgive themselves to be able to go on with their lives. Forgiving isn’t easy. Resentment is one of those iron balls that you drag around your ankle sometimes for the rest of your life. It hurts to carry it with you, but like a vice, it’s difficult to discard. I don’t want to sound like a self-help guru here, but I have some advice for those who feel a lot of resentment and feel that life is a heavy burden: Lascia Stare.