The Shoes of the Fisherman is based on the book, The Shoes of the Fisherman (Vatican Trilogy, Book 1), by Morris L. West. Having read the book before having seen the movie, I can say that it would not be an easy feat of screenwriting and film direction to translate the book’s philosophical depth and utilization of internal monologues to the visual media, however, I was not disappointed with the movie: I believe they did the best possible to present a great deal of the message of the book in the form of a movie. Artistic license was used with a positive general effect: the addition of a television news reporter to the cinematic version of the story portrayed the role of the mid-twentieth century media covering the public activities of the Vatican, in particular Papal elections. This allowed the cinematic portrayal the use of a television news reporter’s narration to give the audience an idea of some of the background information concerning the papal election and the political and social climate which the prospective new Pope would face, as well as some background on the principal contenders and the Papal household. This departure from the letter of the book to maintain the spirit of the book proved to be an excellent way of remaining faithful to the spirit of the book while filling the demands and working within the limitations of the visual media.
Morris L. West was spot-on in the book about a future Pope being chosen from among the Slavic peoples and from what was then a Communist-dominated country at the time that the book was written, well before the election and Papacy of John Paul II occurred. West seems to have based his fictional Pope upon the real life Cardinal József Mindszenty, who was tortured and imprisoned by the Communist administration of Hungary.
While some of the developments in the Catholic Church which were only under discussion at the time Morris L. West’s book was written and the movie was made, have since come to pass,(Vatican II was not mentioned explicitly in the movie, but was in progress at the time the book was released) unfortunately, nobody in real life has yet made the touching gesture, in the spirit of my name saint, St. Lawrence, that the Pope who had been former Fr. Kiril announced at the end of the movie: that he would be selling the works of art held by the Vatican to relieve world poverty.

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