Pope francis – a man of his word
pope francis - a man of his word

Image: PFAMOHW-Wenders

The Pope’s Third Body – Order from the Vatican: Wim Wenders’ film about Pope Francis is interested neither in the man nor in the office

How many divisions does the pope have??

Joseph Stalin

This is a commissioned work, but one of the more complicated kind. If Wim Wenders had simply made an image film for the Vatican, it would have been clear who is master here and who is servant.

If we believe everything that Wim Wenders says about the process of making his new film "Francis – a man of his word" the original idea for the film came from the Vatican, from the communications department there.

Then Wenders, the man who is supposed to be deeply religious, who was supposedly sitting in front of the TV on the evening of the Pope’s election "hung" and after the announcement of the pope’s name "stood up in front of the television" is and said: "There is no such thing! That someone dares to do that…", and who supposedly sees in this pope and only in him the person who has answers to the most important questions of our time, then this Wim Wenders, who never thought of making a film about the pope before the request of the papal PR experts, knew pretty quickly what he wanted: "Not a film about the pope, but one with him."

Let it be "not to the institution of the church" gone, "but rather that this extraordinary and courageous man could address the people directly in a film."

Rude delusion, naivety or even worse

If we believe all this exactly as it has been said, then Wenders must first of all be accused of pure gross delusion, that he apparently really ames that a Wenders film could become a mouthpiece for the pope "to the people" and secondly a good portion of naivety or even worse – because how simple does one have to be to seriously ame that one can make a film in which the pope is "directly" (what that is supposed to mean at all, we’ll leave that for now) "to the people" (to all 7 billion? to certain? to Wenders fans?) "can address", without it having anything to do with the institution he heads?

Also Angela Merkel or Uli Hoeneb or Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin can never again simply "Man" its. If they ever were.

But it goes on in this tenor, and sometimes one liked to know whether Wenders is actually somewhere at the end of the day a calculating cynic who wanted to sell his audience for blod, or whether he himself was sold for blod by the henchmen of the papal communications department.

Pope Francis – A man of his word

pope francis - a man of his word

Picture: PFAMOHW-Wenders

He had absolutely free hand in the design and the final catch, Wenders claims, a privileged access to the Vatican archives, also the production was financially completely independent of the Vatican – in other words, according to Wenders "a carte blanche".

Perhaps he really believes that – especially since Wim Wenders apparently believes everything possible, in which even some otherwise deeply connected followers will not follow him.

Relative independence for a relatively dependent one

But of course you can’t leave it quite like that. The "privileged access to the Vatican archives" could hardly have referred to the entire archive, to the Inquisition Department, to Opus Dei, to the internal church files on pederasty, abuse and rape of wards, to anti-Semitism and the silence on the murder of Jews in Germany after 1933, to the cronyism with Mussolini’s fascists or to the political intrigues and machinations inside and outside the Vatican during the last 100 years.

"Privileged" is in any case not the same thing as the "unrestricted", even if it sounds like it. Rather, what is meant is above all the film footage of the Pope’s appearances. The "Centro Televisivo Vaticano", the film department of the Holy See, documents all speeches and trips of the Pope, which is very convenient for filmmakers, but also means that the Pope usually cuts a good figure in the pictures.

The "Centro Televisivo Vaticano" is also very clearly stated in the credits of the film, and the "Suddeutsche Newspaper" calls it "one of the main producers of the film" – that does not sound quite so independent. "Carte blanche" or not: The Vatican supplied in any case a rough part of the material.

Wenders does not have to be accused of being mercenary or of having problems financing his films.

It is more about the gesture with which someone disguises the fact that he only enjoys relative independence because he was already relatively dependent internally.

Faith and religion do not deserve separate respect

Here now a small excursion is necessary: Faith and religion, in order to formulate it also times so clearly, as it is unfortunately at the moment much too rarely formulated, do not deserve any separate respect. deserves the respect that every private opinion deserves.



You are allowed to have them, because there is freedom of opinion and conscience. Even the public expression and display of religious convictions is problematized and restricted in many countries, because religion has the potential to create conflicts and social tensions.

But it is precisely this respect for religion that is demanded by many in Germany, where people have always liked to demand public confessions. Wenders, for example, now likes to claim in interviews that religious confession is obsolete, that our culture is not a place of religion "increasingly hostile to religion". Yet the Germans love this director for nothing more than for his Engels-Deutschland kitsch "Heaven over Berlin".

But Wenders points to the USA as a shining example: "In America, it’s completely different: There, it’s a different tradition that people don’t hide their faith, it’s in the public consciousness in a different way. It is quite natural to be a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim."

Even this is a skewed picture, because Jews and even more so Muslims are not rarely attacked in the USA, but even Catholics are a threat for conservative circles – not only as immigrant Latinos, but also as Kennedys.

But an open confession of godlessness and atheism is socially sanctioned.

Priest of celluloid and moral trumpeter of Dusseldorf

Now it is certainly so that the clever gentlemen in the Vatican already knew that they had gotten themselves in Wenders a believer and willing mediator of their intentions in the boat, a priest of the celluloid.

Wim Wenders was neither a pioneer of the New German Cinema, as a member of which he is often called today, nor is he the figurehead of today’s international auteur cinema that he once was for a few years in the 1980s.

Wim Wenders has perhaps always been the Hermann Hesse of German directors: not as radical as Werner Herzog, not as clever as Alexander Kluge, not as supple as Volker Schlondorff and not as brilliant as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, his works have aged well in his lifetime, Wohlfuhlwerke fur das bildungsburger Seniorenkino. In the corner of the DVD shelf, his films gather dust.

Dario Viganò, the pope’s PR strategist, is not only a theologian but also a film expert. To Wenders he praises "this powerful, poetic and innovative look." The film "Francis – a man of his word", praises Viganò in a characteristic formulation, be "an attentive directorial work, which takes itself back".

The finished film suggests that Vatican influence was completely unnecessary – Wenders means every word that falls in the film and is convinced from the bottom of his heart that he wanted to be a propagandist of this pope, or better yet, his image of this pope.

The good man from Dusseldorf has become the moral trumpeter of Dusseldorf. A moral trumpeter who, in passing, engages in cheap AfD-style politician-bashing – "Pope Francis … is a counter-figure to almost all politicians today. A person who actually serves the common good and not just his own interests … represents."