It’s odd, isn’t it? But then again, the shocking effect Padre Pio would have had on you otherwise might’ve been subdued considerably by your predetermined expectation of a film by Ferrara. You likely had the extent of your peripheral vision tested as you strained yourself trying to connect the two frames. Don’t let the film snobs’ shrugged shoulders keep you from concluding that Padre Pio was neither here nor there—and funnily enough, quite literally so.
The oddly revered and apparently stigmata-bearing Italian priest’s disturbed silhouette exists as the unstable backdrop, crumbling under the weight of the abused villagers’ plight in post-World War I Italy. And the threads connecting the saint and the villagers, who, for some reason, were robbed of their patois and were speaking broken English, were so pretentiously subtle that you would have to make it a point to seek them out. So, it’s a good thing that you’re reading this, and you don’t have to do what I’ve already done for you.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Padre Pio’?
Here’s a man with a storm inside, joining a church in a country awaiting her children’s return from the war that achieved nothing, a war that ironically was believed to be the war to end all wars. But then again, does war ever achieve anything other than the horror that marks one of the worst nightmares of mankind? If you know of the real Padre Pio, now would be the time to shut that part of your brain off. LaBeouf’s Pio only borrows the outline of the real man and stuffs it with Ferrara’s vision of a haunted priest. And more essentially, although I’d refrain from getting down to the nitty-gritty of it, the Pio in the movie is arguably, and sort of problematically, a rather meta self-reflection of the actor and his real demons.
It’s practically infuriating to watch a character that is evidently created to address LeBeouf’s demons, victimize itself, and metaphorize the real pain inflicted on real people. Even in the supposedly soothing four walls of God’s home, Pio hasn’t been able to outrun the visions of the Devil, who wastes no time tormenting him with his own past. While the territory remains predominantly underexplored, disquieting hints of Pio having been a narcissistic abuser of women echo louder than the piercing meltdown the new padre goes through. Yet Padre Pio soothes the disquiet in your mind with an insecurity of the man that’s in keeping with the time period.
As it turns out, excusing oneself from the duty of serving one’s country in a war is a far worse crime than anything else Pio might have done. Because why does a man get to preserve his limbs when another comes home in a wheelchair? An eye for a medal. A husband for the pride that doesn’t fill the belly, A satchel full of names that won’t be back to rejoice and join the rest to live out the rest of their days having their labor exploited. The village we see isn’t better for the war. The priest who hums hymns away from the pain and the outrage can hardly keep restacking the bricks of the wall he puts up against the knowledge of how it is out there.
Why Was There A Left Uprising In The Village?
It’s hardly possible to overlook the irony of Pio’s troubled relationship with the very faith he preaches when it’s in contrast to the very pragmatic and troubled state of his flock. One man crumbles in God’s house like a piece of paper at the fear of being devoid of true faith while a child fills a little coffin that only adds to the trail of poverty-stricken bodies left behind. If Pio was blessed with the ability to heal the diseased, why couldn’t he heal what was broken in his parish? And more importantly, what made Abel Ferrara consciously restrict Pio’s involvement in the tumultuous political state of the village?
Because the real believers of God, the ones that truly lived or, at the very least, wanted to live by the words of the Holy Book, were in a fervent attempt to overthrow the system where even shoes were divided by social class. Speaking up for the battered and exploited were the socialists, dying to bring about peaceful change. The hope that one day the ruthless landowners wouldn’t have them in a chokehold was the only thing keeping the laborers going. They’d endured war, and for what? So they could see a brother die from the sheer exhaustion of working for the rich? The change was a necessity for the people who couldn’t tame their hunger with the body of Christ.
‘Padre Pio’ Ending Explained: Why Were The Socialists Murdered?
Any good that Pio wants to do leaks through the cracks that he wishes to fill with the words of God. Yet the only words of faith that inadvertently come out of his mouth in moments of acute desperation are more telling of his own lack of faith in Christ than anything else. At times, Pio even comes off as suicidal. The nature of his troubled state, however, is never conspicuously linked to the state of the village and its people. Yet, it’s rather preposterous to assume that a priest, mostly seen in a benevolent light, is ignorant of the pain of the villagers. What takes center stage and distracts you from his other afflictions whenever you see him is the flood of his very personal issues that he’s perpetually drowning in.
When you ponder over the moments of his rapid outbursts of anger, you’ll notice a pattern that is likely to get more and more discernible. He lashes out at the frightening embodiment of his inner demon when it regurgitates every ugly insecurity that Pio is terrified of. He goes berserk at the confessional when the “tall man” admits to his incestuous contemplations about his little daughter. And like the demon, the “tall man” doesn’t bow before his demand of embracing the all-powerful God as the lord and savior. The irrefutable possibility that the “tall man” was a manifestation of Pio’s own guilt, just like the demon and the seductress committing blasphemy, makes it all the more disturbing. So how is a man like that, battling himself from within, going to stand beside his flock? So, straying from the reality where Padre Pio had supposedly blessed the weapons of the rich, the film assigns the deplorable job to another priest of the same church.
A free election was a farce in a place where the rich had the church and the guns in their pockets. And like the man who returned from war only to die dragging rocks, hope died for the socialists when they won the election only to be denied entry into office. What use is winning when the change will have to be immortal to withstand the blades and bullets of the powerful? The rich then, like today, got rich and stayed rich off the backs of the poor. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to preserve the class division that benefited them the most. It’s terrifying to think that if times hadn’t changed, the Trump supporters breaking into the Capitol could’ve gotten their way. Sadly, ethically winning an election back then hardly had the same value. And therefore, all they won were spots six feet under.