Venice Review: Gianfranco Rosi’s ‘In Viaggio’

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A powerful meditation on recent history, In Viaggio premiered out of competition at the Venice Film Festival. Directed by previous Golden Lion winner Gianfranco Rosi, it follows Pope Francis’ travels, using mostly archival footage to paint a picture not only of the man, but of the modern world.

Rosi was inspired by the fact that two of Francis’ journeys mirrored his own, for the films Fuocoammare (Fire at sea2016) and not turno (2020). The documentary maker merges his own footage with that of news archives, but Pope Francis’ voice is the most important in the entire film. While journalists and followers are occasionally heard, the focus is on Francis, creating a peculiar tone. His soft spoken messages combine with classical, often choral music to a hypnotic effect.

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We see him visit women’s and men’s prisons, where he preaches about dignity and dreams. We see him speak about the power of collaborating with other religions, rather than making enemies of them. We also see him at press conferences, where he tackles tough questions – while this isn’t warts and a biopic, it doesn’t quite shy away from controversy.

Pope Francis comes across as a mild-mannered man who is troubled by the modern world but hopeful about humanity, perhaps qualities that Rosi herself shares. The couple certainly share a passion for travel, as the title suggests.

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In 2019, Jonathan Pryce starrer The Two Popes took an accessible approach to portraying Francis’ relatively progressive nature. This works as a more serious companion piece, reflecting on some of his biggest concerns, from poverty to the environment to war. It doesn’t offer easy answers, and it certainly doesn’t suggest that the Catholic Church has them – but it is a moving reflection on the trials of the world and a tribute to those who seek to change them.

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