Jude Law’s The Young Pope is the “thriller of the soul” you should be watching this winter

Director Paolo Sorrentino’s decision to cast the chiselled Adonis that is Jude Law may create certain assumptions as to what to expect from The Young Pope. Debauchery that would impress even the Roman Emperors may be one. You’d be wrong, though. The Young Pope is instead a 10-part masterpiece that will confound your every attempt to reduce it to a simple statement about power, politics, morality, family dynamics, the Church, absence, spirituality and the question of meaning in an ever-silent and defiantly secretive universe.

Psychopath or saint?

Pope Pius XIII, Lenny Belardo, is a psychopath, and a saint. Confused? That contradiction is perhaps something to keep in mind when you work your way through this exceptional artistic triumph. Indeed, Sorrentino brashly lays bare his intentions within the first few minutes of episode 1. When asked, “Who are you?”, the Pope, without melodrama, answers: “I’m a contradiction. I’m God. One in three and three in one. Like Mary, a virgin, a mother. Like man, good and evil.” In some ways, the entire 10 hours of the series are an incredibly gripping, inventive and mind-bending demonstration of just what Lenny means.

His “only” sin

Orphaned as a young child, Lenny is obsessed with finding his parents – he feels their absence at every second, and afflicted with profound emptiness, the antisocial aspects of his personality manifest themselves. Sorrentino, at moments, makes light of his cold, patently unempathetic treatment of the Papal Palace staff and Cardinals. However, when, during a confession, Lenny arrogantly states, “My only sin, and it’s an enormous one, is that my conscience doesn’t accuse me of anything,” you know he’s truly deadly.

Thriller of the soul

Set against Pius XIII’s beauty and megalomania is the warm and very human Cardinal Vioello, played by Italian actor Silvio Orlando. The Cardinal has “impure thoughts” when viewing a 25 000-year-old stone statue of Venus, and his quirks don’t stop there. For the first half of the series, the newly elected Pope and Vioello play ruthless power games that are brilliantly thought out, and match the intrigue offered by only the best political thrillers. Sorrentino, however, points out that The Young Pope is a “thriller of the soul”, so more profound conflicts become increasingly prominent during the second half of the series.

And there’s a kangaroo – see if you can make sense of that one.

Tackling life’s biggest mysteries

With regards to the deeper themes at play, in addition to absence and contradiction is the element of mystery: those big questions that remain unanswered, if, indeed, answers exist. Sorrentino remarks that Lenny’s condition is conceivably a representation of something that we can all relate to:

In the final analysis, [The Young Pope] talks about that unsettling little noise of solitude, of loneliness that’s inside all of us and that never balances. Which is not the solitude of somebody who doesn’t have anybody to chat with in the evening, but it is a more profound, deeper condition and sense of uneasiness [that] in the final analysis you are alone. And that’s why those who have that knowledge of this solitude ask themselves the question of God.

Through stunning cinematography, an astounding script, award-worthy performances by the entire cast and direction by a verified master, The Young Pope will doubtlessly leave you breathless (and thoroughly entertained) until the very last shot. Catch The Young Pope on Showmax, and don’t miss out!

Robinson Nqola

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