Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Shoes of the Fisherman

This morning I watched the 1968 film "The Shoes of the Fisherman" starring Anthony Quinn as an unlikely pope. The film was adapted from the 1963 book by the Australian author, Morris West.

Is is completely fictional and futuristic for its time, but it leaves one with lots of questions. It portrays the good and bad of Rome's hierarchical structure as it recounts some of it's then-contemporary appropriation of the reforms of Vatican II. We saw the silencing of a philospher-theologian who had come to a new understanding of Christ and the upholding of the sanctity of his conscience, which the Second Vatican Council places at the primacy of one's decision-making. We saw the power of prayer and faith that may lead one into difficulties with the current power structure as one moves towards a gospel-based manner of living. We saw fidelity and conversion of heart that gives hope to anyone who wants to place one's hope in God and brings more people to trust in the heart of the Vicar of Chris on earth.

I would find it interesting for a contemporary film director to produce another such quality film. I wouldn't want to see the film try to do harm to the church, but to portray the various forces that compete for attention. Understanding the struggles and motives of the leaders of the church could be insightful to many who find the hierarchy inaccessible to them. In the film, Anthony Quinn tries to get into the real lives of ordinary people, Catholic or not,  in order to understand their struggles and to offer them the only thing he has going for him - his faith in the power of Christ.

It is a brilliant film and we could use more images that help progress our theological imagination.


  1. I remember reading the book many years ago but I've forgotten much of the story so thanks for reminding me- I'll see if I can get a cheap copy from Amazon. There was another one called the Final Conclave by Malachi Martin that I vagely remember but again I can't recall what happened but it was a good read.
    I think it would be quite a challenge to do a contemporary film dealing with the issues and challenges we face now but in sensitive hands it could be very worthwhile.
    So mnay film-makers seek sensationalism or dumbing down of the issues.
    John, who do you think would make a good director and who would you cast in the lead roles ?!!
    Thanks again for this.

  2. Very... Nicee... Blog.. I really appreciate it... Thanks..:-)