If there would ever be a list of movies to represent us as intelligent beings then this movie would be a part of that list. It tells so much about our fears and religion. It is a true classic and for its time (1973) a very bold movie. Also the most successful movie ever when it got out… until ‘Jaws’ was released a few months later. There are so many frightening things happening. And by that i’m not only referring to the amazing performance of Linda Blair. It’s the images we see. Or also the things we do not get to see. Especially in the beginning of the movie. On the dig site and the middle east part. We don’t see anything but there is something going on in the background. The pictures and performances suggest that something strange is going on. And this movie has the perfect balance of suggesting things and showing things. A lot of movies attempt these balance acts but only few succeed.
You surely know the story of the movie and i don’t want to go into too much explaining here. Instead i want to focus on things i discovered watching this movie. The characters in the movie all have their problems and get confronted with that crazy and unbelievable situation. While the mother of the possessed girl tries everything to get her back to normal, through medicine and psychology, nothing seems to work. I found that the scenes in the hospital were pretty frightening in itself. How they attempt to find out what is going on with the girl. Running tests with all these huge and loud machines. The girl, already frightened and confused by herself, going through all these tests. Seeing how the mother is feeling bad watching it all. I guess we all can relate to that. As well as the helpless feeling relying on these weird machines. Nothing helps. Physically the girl completely fine. The behavior of the girl gets more and more intense. The crazy scene where she crawls down the stairs. Still an eyecatcher and still quite a shocking picture. Things get worse…
Father Karras in the meanwhile has the burden of not having had the chance to help his mother when she died. He feels quilty and gets problems with his religion, not believing anymore. Something we all can relate to too i guess. We all had our moments when we thought that our existence is meaningless. Another character a viewer can easily connect to. Soon he’s confronted by the helpless family, being their last chance to resolve the situation. He agrees to visit the child and seems very confident that there is not much going on. Very soon he is sure that there is something big happening. And he admits that even religion won’t be a big help. We see him helpless again… but hooked. He wants to find out more about it. He wants to cure her.
It’s pretty amazing how you can see the minds of our characters working without them saying anything. Especially Father Karras is questioning everything. The camera work enhances this experience. The overall execution is pretty modern i would say. There is almost a documentary feeling in it sometimes. It is also a pretty quiet movie. Except for the exorcism scenes of course. It’s as if there is a whole different world in the room where they hold the possessed girl captive.
There are a few documented cases. Most importantly the story we can witness in the ‘Emily Rose’ movie. And all the time you ask yourself what would you do in that situation. Could you do anything? Such a strange situation. So well displayed. And, first of all, very believable! All actors, and of course Max Von Sydow, deliver a very believable performance and manage it to suck us into the craziness. And when the exorcism begins we are on their side and wish them all the luck in the world.
A true classic and recommendation.
8.2/10 from me.