direttore Paolo Di Maira

CANNES 2/The Pope’s Room

The Vatican proposed by Nanni Moretti in “Habemus papam” has been reinvented and rebuilt in the Cinecittà  studios as well as in a number of prestigious locations around Rome.
As many already know, the movie is mainly set in St. Peter’s Basilica and the apostolic buildings and, given that it was impossible to actually film in these places, finding alternative locations was one of the production’s first problems when preparing the movie.
Moretti also wanted to make the film as realistic as possible, respectful of the environment and capable of representing and reproducing, as authentically as possible, all the ceremonial rituals that accompany the election of a new pope.
With regard to the scenes of the conclave which is traditionally held inside the Sistine Chapel, the only solution was to rebuild the chapel in Cinecittà , complete with Michelangelo’s famous fresco of the Universal Judgment, on a scale that was 80% of the original size.
The Loggia of St. Peter’s where, at the end of the conclave, the Camerlengo Cardinal appears at the window to announce the name of the new pope, was also rebuilt in the studios located on Via Tuscolana, in Rome.
With regard to the interior shots of the Vatican, the idea of filming inside the Palazzo della Cancelleria, owned by the Holy See which had already given permission for some TV dramas to be shot there, soon floundered (at least according to an interview with the movie’s co-scriptwriter Federica Pontremoli), so Moretti and his set designer, Paola Bizzarri, went looking for somewhere that was as similar as possible to the apostolic palaces.

“The image that Moretti wanted to communicate,” explains Paola Bizzarri, who was working with the director for the first time, “was that of an austere, intimate world, without any baroque triumphalism”.
So a series of 16th and 17th century Roman palaces were used: the scenes in the papal apartment were filmed in Palazzo Muccioli and the recreation room where Moretti, alias Professor Brezzi, reads excerpts from the Bible to the College of Cardinals, is actually a room in Palazzo Spinola, in Piazza Campitelli.
Private residences, such as Palazzo Muccioli and Palazzo Sacchetti, were used for the scenes in which the Pope wanders uncertainly through a series of corridors.
However, most of the filming of the imaginary Vatican took place in Palazzo Farnese, the home of the French embassy.
For three weeks, the cast and crew of “Habemus papam” practically occupied the embassy, filming in the ambassador’s office, the gallery of the Palazzo, the courtyard (where the volley ball match between the cardinals takes place), and in the Loggia that overlooks the Palazzo’s gardens.
This is not the first time that the French Embassy has become a film set; it also happened in 1992 for the TV version of “Tosca” with Ruggero Raimondi, which was filmed in the exact places mentioned in the libretto, Sant’Andrea della Valle and Castel Sant’Angelo, as well as Palazzo Farnese.
However, such an extensive and prolonged occupation of the French diplomatic offices had never occurred before and is unlikely to be repeated.
The officials at Palazzo Farnese have, in fact, explained that the authorization granted to Moretti and his movie should be considered an exceptional event, and was mainly due to the fame and prestige that the director also enjoys in France.
However, the people at the Embassy told us that, before saying yes to Moretti’s request and after checking that filming would not hamper the normal working life of the diplomatic offices, the French ambassador made sure that the movie was in no way offensive to the Catholic Church and, in this regard, precise guarantees were requested, albeit informally, from the French Embassy to the Holy See, and were extremely forthcoming.
The use of the diplomatic offices to make a movie also aroused a lot of curiosity in France and numerous French newspapers wrote about it, revealing that the amount paid by the production company of “Habemus papam” to Palazzo Farnese was around 100 thousand Euros.

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