Pope movie underway

A Polish-Italian team will begin work at the end of November on an Italian-language film about Pope John Paul II, who grew up not far from Krakow. A well-known American actor will have a major role in the movie, although the filmmakers are guarding his identity for now. The movie will be based on Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz’s bestselling book “Swiadectwo,” or “The Testimony,” according to the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Dziwisz was the pope’s personal secretary for 40 years, beginning when John Paul was the priest Karol Wojtyla, before becoming head of the Catholic Church in the Krakow area. The book, which came out in early 2007, offers a personal glimpse of John Paul’s 26 years as pope and his 14 years as a priest and Polish archbishop before that.

The film will be a docu-drama, a cross between a documentary and a standard movie. It will be released in the middle of 2008. Italian journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi actually wrote “The Testimony,” based on conversations with Dziwisz. It came out in Italy under the title “A Life With Karol.”  Svidercoschi and Dziwisz have collaborated with film director Pawel Pitera on the movie script. The filming will be in Poland, Italy, France and Germany. In Poland the title of the movie will be the same as the book. In other countries it will be “A Life With Karol.”

The movie will cover many subjects in the book but it will also contain original material. The book, for example, describes the moment when John Paul II appears in the window of St. Peter’s Square to let people know the Vatican’s College of Cardinals had elected him pope. But the book doesn’t deal with what happened after he left the window – how he reacted to the enthusiasm of the crowd below. The movie will touch on that.

The book indicates that in his first days as pope it was difficult for John Paul II, a sportsman, to adjust to the confinement of the papacy. He used to make informal “escapes” with his closest friends, the book says. Neither Vatican officials nor journalists knew about the almost 100 escapes he made during his entire papacy, wrote Dziwisz, who was his closest aide.

The structure of the movie will be similar to the book’s. The movie will have a narrator, for example. But instead of narrating, Dziwisz’s character will play a role in the film. tanislaw Necek, the priest who is the spokesman for the Krakow Archdiocese, declined to say who would be playing Dziwisz or who any of the other actors would be.

The movie will come in two versions, one for the big screen and one for television. The cinema version will be one hour and 20 minutes long. The TV version will consist of three 50-minute segments. John Paul II was the 264th pope. He presided over the Roman Catholic Church from October 16, 1978, until his death at age 84 on April 2, 2005. His almost 27 years in the position made his papacy the second-longest in modern times.

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