DIRECTOR OF CLASSIC HEAD TURNER BACK WITH REAL-LIFE HORROR AND SALVATION
The now classic film The Exorcist scared millions of people and remains an effective piece of work today, as it did not depend on special effects to create the deep sense of unease and disturbance in its viewers. Now we have a chilling and new documentary which shows us a real exorcism performed by a priest who has become known as the “Dean of Exorcists.” What do they both have in common? They were both made by director William Friedkin.
DOCUMENTARY FOCUSES ON “THE DEAN OF EXORCISTS” WHO WORKED IN VATICAN’S ROME DIOCESE
When Friedkin shot The Exorcist 44 years ago he, like virtually everyone else, had never seen an exorcism. But, he did have belief in the powers at play and especially in the power of the disturbing rite designed to remove malignant spirits from a possessed person. Now decades later, Friedkin has come around again to bring us more about the rite of exorcism. But this time it’s neither fiction nor fantasy, it’s a documentary of an actual exorcism performed by Father Gabriele Amorth who regularly performed the rite or the Vatican’s Rome Diocese.
FATHER AMORTH WAS A FAN OF THE FICTIONAL FILM
The result is the unsettling documentary “The Devil and Father Amorth” which recently screened at the Venice Film Festival, reports the Daily Record . The film features an Italian woman who is seen violently thrashing around, foaming at the mouth and screaming as the exorcism is carried out.
Father Amorth has passed away since the documentary was shot and Friedkin has revealed how he finally got the chance to see the The Dean of Exorcists in action. He said: “I was familiar with his books, four or five of which are translated into English. And I knew that he was kindly disposed towards The Exorcist movie, even though he had said the special effects were over the top.
OLD MOVIE HELPED PEOPLE UNDERSTAND FATHER AMORTH’S WORK
“He felt that it helped people to understand his work. I had never tried to meet him, I never thought I could. But I was in Lucca in Italy a year or so ago and someone casually mentioned that Lucca was about a half-hour drive to Pisa where there was an airport where I could catch a one-hour flight to Rome. Something clicked, and through a friend I was able to write Father Amorth. Two days later he wrote me back, and said he would meet me. The idea just popped onto my head. I call it providential. I had an inner voice that said to me, “I wonder if I could meet Father Amorth?”
“THERE IS NO RESEARCH INTO EXORCISMS, THE ONLY RESEARCH IS HIS BOOKS”
“In the United States in the 20th century, there were two reported cases of possession, as far as Mr Blatty [who wrote the The Exorcist] and I could tell. There were only two cases that had any substantial writing about them in the United States. The church doesn’t say a lot about this. They don’t try to publicise it at all. They are not promoting it. I doubt that they will even have a position about my latest film. They never comment about these things. I doubt that they would have given me permission to do what I did.”
“He gave me permission. He operated quite independently from church procedure and was openly critical of the Vatican. I was shocked as I had no idea that I would ever be able to even meet with him. I knew how busy he was. He was doing exorcisms all day every day right up until he went into the hospital and then died in September 2016.”
FATHER AMORTH PERFORMED EXORCISMS EVERY DAY
“I think I came along at a time when he wanted people to become aware of this work because he wanted the Vatican to train more exorcists. He believed that I had enough cachet to take his story… that I would be able to bring it to the public by way of a film. I had to shoot it alone, obviously. The conditions were that I come along with no crew and no lights. So I used a Sony still camera that shot high-definition video. I had only that camera running and I was about two feet away from them, probably even closer.”
“It was terrifying. I went from being afraid of what could happen to feeling a great deal of empathy with this woman’s pain and suffering, which is obvious in the film. The one that I filmed was her ninth exorcism, and she was having one a month. I later consulted with neurologists, brain surgeons, some of the best in the United States. The brain surgeons had no idea what her affliction was and none of them would recommend an operation. They believe that everything originates in the brain but – and they say this in the film – they have never seen anything quite like these symptoms.”
“Then the psychiatrists… all described how psychiatry now recognizes demonic possession. It’s called dissociative identity disorder/demonic possession. And if a patient comes in and says they are possessed by a demon or a devil, they don’t tell them that they are not. They do whatever psychiatric treatment they think is necessary, including medication. And they bring an exorcist in.”