Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A Painting For The Pope
If I ever had to write the screenplay for a movie where Harrison Ford would star as the first American Pope, I would call it, “A Painting for the Pope.”
It would be the story of the Pope commissioning a painting. The Catholic Church used to do a lot of that kind of thing. It still does, of course, but since hardly anybody in pop culture cares about paintings and even fewer, probably, care about Vatican patronage, nobody really sees what the Church commissions.
This would not be a normal Church commission, however . . .
This would be the story of the Pope—the first American Pope—commissioning a painter to create a painting for the Pope’s private study. (Throughout history, of course, the stuff Popes have done in private has been wildly more interesting that what they’ve done in public.) The Pope—Harrison Ford as a senior citizen American Pope—would commission an artist to create a painting of the woman the Pope had an affair with when he was a divinity student. She is older, of course, as is he, but she is still beautiful and now she is married to a famous businessman.
And the Pope would insist the commission be undertaken by a specific artist—the artist who, years before, had also had an affair with the woman when the Pope had been a divinity student and the artist had been a struggling young artist who was friends with the divinity student and the woman had been young and in love with passion itself—the passion of the young divinity student for God, the passion of the young artist for art and her own passion for love itself.
The Pope, the artist and the woman would not have seen each other or spoken to each other since their youth.
The artist of course would first refuse the commission. The woman of course would first refuse to pose. Then there would be lots of melodrama, lots of soul-searching, lots of looking longingly off into the distance as everyone remembered back to the days when their passion was a hands-on thing and not just phantasmagorical memories.
And eventually the artist and the woman would reconsider. There would be wild and intense confrontations between the woman and the artist. The woman and the Pope. The woman and her businessman husband.
And everyone would sort of realize that passion doesn’t go away. Passionate people don’t stop being passionate people. That not doing the painting wouldn’t change the fact that the passions of youth don’t go away with age, they just become, kind of, submerged. And the artist and the woman would come to see themselves as part of something larger than the both of them, larger than the three of them.
They would see themselves as manifestations of passion itself. They would see themselves as flesh-and-blood incarnations of the love that—each in their own way—meant and continues to mean so much to them. And they would not be able to refuse to participate in the painting because it would be a chance to immortalize their passions.
And they would see themselves not just as individuals living out lives shaped, defined, by their own passions. They would see themselves as contemporary versions of star-crossed lovers, like any number of star-crossed lovers in the past who’ve lived and died in obscurity, like any number of star-crossed lovers in the future who would live and die in obscurity. But they would realize that the situation around them gave them the opportunity to create a kind of icon to the whole notion of passion and love. Three figures on a global stage—the Pope, the businessman’s wife, the now famous artist—could create a painting, an image, that would forever embody star-crossed love made real, even if momentarily. Dreams made real. The fires of passion and love made tangible. A kind of relic that would move into the future and forever be an example to the future that the incomprehensible can become real. Rarely. Through great suffering. Through the dedication of excruciating lifetimes. But the magical can become real.
And the artist and the woman would create a painting for the Pope.
Nobody would live happily ever after. But there would be a wildly cool painting to move into the future for everyone.
If I ever had to write the screenplay for a movie where Harrison Ford would star as the first American Pope, that’s the story I would tell.