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A provocative combination of a trial film and a horror movie,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Exorcism of Emily Rose [UK Import] (DVD)
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is based on a true story, which would be the exorcism and death of in 1976 of Anneliese Michel, a young German girl. The "Klingenberg Case" unfolded in the wake of the release of William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" and two years later prosecutors brought Anneliese's parents and the two exorcists to trial on charges of negligent homicides. What Scott Derrickson takes from that true story are not so much the details of the young woman's possession and the attempted exorcism, but the drama of a trial in which the state seeks to convict a priest for believing in faith rather than facts. Consequentially, this 2005 is a rather unique blend of a trial film with a horror movie, and with regards to both parts of the equation it is both provocative and effective.
Our vantage point in the story is that of Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), a criminal lawyer who has achieved notoriety for successfully defending a murderer. The head of her firm (Colm Feore) dangles a partnership in front of her for taking the case of Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), who has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Diagnosed as having epilepsy, the Father convinced Emily that she was a victim of demon possession and got her to stop taking her medication. An exorcism was performed, but it was unsuccessful, and Emily starved to death. Prosecuting the case if Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a man of faith who believes in facts. Bruner is an agnostic, which makes for an obvious irony as she defends the priest whose only concern is that he be allowed to testify and tell Emily's story. Towards that end he has refused a plea agreement pushed by the archdiocese.
Emily's story emerges in flashbacks during the trial, which puts the prosecution's case at a disadvantage from our perspective. Thomas' alternative explanations for things like how Emily comes to know so many ancient languages ring hollow compared to what we have seen and heard in the flashbacks. It is key that Thomas is a man of faith, that he is a believer whereas Bruner is not, but when he dismisses Moore's beliefs as archaic superstitions is he merely being a Protestant or is he drawing a line in the theological sand elsewhere? To the point, does he believe in God but not Satan? In both but not in possession? More to the point, when faith and facts collide, why does he obviously side with the latter? These questions matter to me because by focusing on the trial the story here is about what religious beliefs the law allows. What is the difference between the religious exemption that allows Native Americans to smoke peyote and allowing Christian Scientists to refuse medical treatment, and the right of the Catholic Church to perform the "Ritulae Romanum" of the Great Exorcism?
Emily's position is succinctly put in her own words: "People say that God is dead, but how can they believe that when I show them the Devil?" When "The Exorcist" came out I remember a poll where more people believed in Satan than in God, which seemed to me to be backwards from the standpoint of logic because Emily is right: the existence of Satan prove that of God, but believing in God does not necessarily mandate a believe in the devil. Maybe that is where Thomas makes his stand. But Derrickson has stacked the deck here: those who authorized the exorcism are off the hook, as are the parents, and the earnest Moore faces martyrdom essentially alone.
What this film has going for it above anything else is an exceptionally strong cast. Linney is an actress who exudes intelligence in everything she does, Scott shows measured disdain with just about every sentence he utters, and Wilkinson brings a remarkable sense of reasonableness to a priest in his position. But special credit goes to Carpenter, who manifests most of Emily's possession through the use of her voice and body (the special features indicate the exceptions in this regard). The fact that for the most part Linney is in the trial film rather than the horror movie helps her so much that in those few scenes where we are supposed to believe the demons are after her actually work against the movie because it works better if her perspective is no different from that of the jury.
In the end I am bothered more by the film's resolution than by its implicit rhetorical questions. I appreciate the importance of amibugity in such a film, that for it to really work both Moore and Thomas must be right at face value, but it really is skewed towards the "turth" of the possession and having it both ways in the end is too much of a cop out for me. Even the characters do not try to come to grips with what it all means given the battle that has been waged in the courtroom, which is why I round down on this one.
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