Pope John Paul II (TV miniseries)
|Pope John Paul II|
|Directed by||John Kent Harrison|
|Written by||John Kent Harrison|
|Release dates||4 & 7 December 2005 (USA)|
|Running time||200 min (2 parts)|
The film was written and directed by John Kent Harrison and aired in the United States on the CBS network on 4 and 7 December 2005. It was first released in Vatican City on 17 November 2005 and ten days later throughout Italy.
Jon Voight portrays Karol Wojtyla in Part 1's Scene 1 opener on 13 May 1981, while Cary Elwes portrays Karol Wojtyla from Scene 2's opener (circa 1939) to Part 2's opener, which starts with his election to the papacy on 16 October 1978 after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, whose pontificate lasted only 33 days. After accepting the Cardinalate's nomination, Elwes is seen being escorted to be fitted in papal vestments, at which point Academy Award winner Jon Voight returns to the title role. Voight was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance.
Pope John Paul II co-stars James Cromwell, as Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, Ben Gazzara, as Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, and Christopher Lee as Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Polish actor Mikolaj Grabowski is seen twice playing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who would succeed John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI on 19 April 2005.
Part 1: (4 December 2005)
The film opens with 13 May 1981's Pope John Paul II assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca, then flashes back to the young Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla whose faith and values are initially fostered by his loving, devout parents, who, along with Karol's older brother, die of natural causes when Karol is 20 years old.
Despite being on his own at a young age and enduring the effects of the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939 at the start of World War II, the philosophical Karol Wojtyla remains optimistic that he can and must make a difference. He obtains a required work permit to avoid deportation to Germany as slave labor so he can survive the dangerous times by working in Kraków's Zakrzowek quarry and Solvay's chemical plant while secretly embracing then-illict theatre to keep Polish culture alive, despite the risks involved, as all of Poland's culture and academics becomes fobidden upon Germany's occupation. In 1941, his father dies of a heart attack and in 1942 - amid the surrounding chaos of ongoing atrocities suffered by Polish Jews, academics, religious leaders and others - Karol accepts a calling to become a priest and joins the underground seminary run by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, a defiant force for Kraków's people under the Nazi occupation as their highest resistance to their genocidal occupiers and becomes Karol's mentor, involving him in the Polish Resistance movement.
In 1945, Nazi tyranny is replaced by Communism though the USSR's Vistula-Oder Offensive that continues the flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland and the Yalta Agreement that ends the war in Europe and begins Poland's Communist regime, i.e. the Provisional Government of National Unity. On All Saints Day (November 1), 1946, Karol is ordained a priest by Sapieha, who is now a cardinal, while the Communists hunt down the Polish Home Army as potential threats to their new power. Wojtyla then travels to Rome for his graduate studies and returns to Poland in 1948 for his first pastoral assignment at Niegowic's Church of the Assumption. In 1949, he is transferred to Krakow's St. Florian's Church, where as Jagiellonian University's chaplain, the athletic 29-year-old Fr. Karol Wojtyla immediately bonds with its students, who enjoy kayaking with him and his inspiring outdoor Masses away as much as possible from the watchful Communists, who are also building Nowa Huta, their planned "town without God" by deliberately leaving a church out of it. Sapieha dies in 1951, Wojtyla is appointed Professor of Social Ethics at Catholic University of Lublin in 1956 and in 1958, the Holy See appoints Wojtyla as Krakow's auxiliary bishop, Poland's youngest ever bishop at only 38 years old.
In 1959, Karol ends the 1950s in newly-completed Nowa Huta by celebrating its first public outdoor Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, he leads an unusual religious procession of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa's empty picture frame through Kraków's streets when public displays of religious images were illegal, attends Vatican II in Rome, where he impresses many influential foreign cardinals with his views, charisma and knowledge of multiple languages while simultaneously serving as Krakow's archbishop and is reunited with an old Jewish friend whom he had watched being dragged away by the Nazis to a death camp during World War II and meets Roman's wife, "Sophia".
After his promotion to the Cardinalate in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, Wojtyla returns to Poland and visits a former Resistance member, "Eva", who is dying of bone marrow cancer induced by World War II's Nazi medical experiments. His prayer to Padre Pio miraculously cures the cancer. Pope Paul VI dies in 1978 and the Papal conclave, August 1978 convenes, electing Albino Cardinal Luciani as his successor, John Paul I, who himself dies only 33 days later. The cardinals then reconvene with Papal conclave, October 1978, ending Part 1 in a cliffhanger.
Part 2: (7 December 2005)
Opening on October 16, 1978 with deadlocked balloting between Italian cardinals Giovanni Benelli and Giuseppe Siri, Wojtyla wins the election as the next foreign pope since Adrian VI in 1522, naming himself John Paul II, the youngest pope elected since Pius IX in 1846. In his October 22 Papal inauguration speech, he tells his worldwide audience to "be not afraid" and soon afterwards, visits Italy's people and performs Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict. In 1979, he appoints Agostino Casaroli as his personal Cardinal Secretary of State, receives Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at the Vatican with questions about the USSR's restrictions on religious freedom, writes his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, starts his list of pastoral visits of Pope John Paul II outside Italy by visiting Mexico for that year's Conference of Puebla CELAM, attracting millions of enthusiasts despite Mexico's 120-year-old anti-clerical constitution and asks Poland's authorities for permission to visit in April for the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Poland's patron St. Stanislaw (Brezhnev advises Edward Gierek against receiving him by claiming to be sick). "Roman" visits him again at the Vatican, this time bringing his small daughter, "Leslie", and asks when the Holy See will recognize the state of Israel. Then a letter arrives from Warsaw approving his request to visit. On 2 June, 1979, he arrives in Warsaw for his first papal visit to his homeland, where he is also greeted by millions of enthusiasts and ends the visit in Krakow on 10 June at his parents' graves in Rakowicki Cemetery. In October, 1979, he makes his first papal visit to the United States (Brezhnev then decrees an "undeclared war" on him), watches Solidarity's formation in 1980 with prayers and support for it and receives Lech Walesa and his delegation at the Vatican on 15 January 1981 for Walesa's first Vatican audience. Agca's 13 May 1981 attempt on his life is reenacted but without any flashbacks to his younger years and instead includes a public address message of his prayers for and forgivness of "that brother of ours who shot me".
After recovering from Agca's attack, Pope John Paul II appoints Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 25 November 1981, receives U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1982 for their first Vatican audience, returns to Poland in 1983 to visit Walesa in his own country four months before Walesa wins that year's Nobel Peace Prize, visits a Communist official named "Cznery", a drifting Catholic who wants to return and ends 1983 by visiting Agca in Rebibbia's prison on 27 December to personally forgive him. In 1984, he appoints Joaquin Navarro-Valls director of the Holy See Press Office and establishes World Youth Days, watches and discusses Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika later in the decade (with "Roman" present again) and ends the 1980s by watching Solidarity win the Polish legislative election, 1989.
The 1990s begin with Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait and his failed opposition to it (ex. his Christmas Day, 1990 Urbi et Orbi peace prayer) and its resulting Gulf War. Afterwards, he faces an angry pro-choice demonstration that he answers by starting his Letter to Women encyclical, visits Denver in 1993 for that year's World Youth Day event at Mile High Stadium and experiences mild, early symptoms of what is now known as Parkinson's Disease.
During the remainder of the 1990s, John Paul II's Parkinson's becomes more advanced, but he still refuses to slow down his busy schedule. In response to his suffering, he writes his Evangelium Vitae encyclical as opposition to what he calls a growing, worldwide culture of death that threatens the Gospel of Life and preaches his own "gospel of suffering". He continues to challenge and inspire millions of people during the 2000s decade's new millennium, starting in 2000 with his first visit to Israel in another attempt to improve both Christian-Jewish reconciliation and Holy See–Israel relations, despite tragedies like the 11 September attacks in 2001 and the Catholic sex abuse scandal that broke in 2002. His life's last events in 2005 during Parkinson's severest symptoms (muteness and paralysis) include his last Easter, his last public appearance on 30 March and his off-screen death on 2 April, with a voiceover of his last requests and a montage of earlier events amid the end credits and main film score.
- Pope John Paul II Official Site
- Pope John Paul II DVD Ignatius Press Website
- Pope John Paul II at the Internet Movie Database