According to the AP, the film omits the more publicly-known pieces of his life that include several investigations into the saint by skeptical Vatican authorities.
The film’s beginning includes the World War I homecoming of Italian soldiers to San Giovanni Rotondo, the town where Padre Pio’s monastery is located. The setting includes social strife between the Catholic Church and wealthy landowners and an uprising of socialists that includes the working class and peasants, the AP said.
After the socialists win a local mayoral election in 1920, the ruling class, backed by the Church, refuses to respect the results. Political unrest ensues. The socialists attempt to hang their flag on the local government building, but in an attempt to stop them, police shoot into the crowd and kill 14, while injuring 80. Ferrara called it the “Massacre of San Giovanni Rotondo” in the interview.
Ferrara, who had made a documentary about Padre Pio before working on the movie, felt that the intersection between the saint’s spiritual battles and the political bloodshed at San Giovanni Rotondo made sense as a scope for the film.
“I thought the confluence between the massacre and his stigmata both happening in the same place at the same time … I mean how could you not make a movie about that?” he told the AP. You can watch a trailer of the film below.
In Catholic circles, Padre Pio is mostly known for his deep wisdom about prayer and peace; his stigmata; miraculous reports of his bilocation; being physically attacked by the devil, and mastering the spiritual life.
The popular phrase “pray, hope, and don’t worry” is often attributed to the famous friar.
Speaking on the film’s context, Ferrara told the AP: “You’re looking at the end of the world.” He dedicated the film to the victims of that massacre and the people of Ukraine, the AP reported. He said he did so because “what I’m looking at is a rerun of World War II. Seventy-five million people died 70 years ago. That’s like, yesterday. It’s happening right in front of our eyes.”
Is the film accurate and worth seeing?
Brother Alexander Rodriguez — a Franciscan Capuchin who became close with LaBeouf during the actor’s preparation for the role of Padre Pio — told CNA Monday that he recommends the film for anyone to see.
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He said that the film’s depiction of the saint is about 90% accurate and is largely based on Padre Pio’s letters to his provincial and spiritual director from 1911–1918. Rodriguez, who accompanied LaBeouf both spiritually and as a co-actor in the film, said that together they visited an exorcist so LaBeouf could learn about Satan, possession, and exorcisms, considering the saint’s intense conflicts with the demonic.
They also visited a priest who celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass so LaBeouf could learn the major parts of the Mass that the saint would have celebrated.
Luciano Lamonarca, founder and CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation — which is dedicated to the promotion of the saint’s spiritual charism — told CNA Monday that he will be watching the film and hopes many will watch as well.
“The hope is that people will be attracted by a genuine interest in watching this movie, and then will move forward to learn more about the life of Padre Pio,” he said. Those seeking more information of the saint should read books about his life by Frank Vega and visit the foundation's website, Lamonarca recommended.