Conversations With God [2006]

28 dic. 2014

Neale Donald Walsch’s own spiritual journey originated a series of bestsellers called Conversations With God. In 2006 a movie with the same title was made starring Henry Czerny and Wilma Silva. The film was heavily panned by critics and it was labeled from “ludicrous and laughable” to “ordinary and harmless”. 

Nevertheless, the audience loved it. It is exactly the material that those raving atheists hate and New-Age lovers cherish to death. However, don’t be fooled by the title: if you have read any of these books you should know by now that the “God” represented in these conversations is nothing like the one you know, or better said:  not like the idea you have of God fed by your religious upbringing.

The movie it isn’t exactly about Christianity but about personal empowerment. It describes the events that shaped Walsch’s life, starting from a car accident he had in 1990 (Portland, Oregon). This led him to a shameful downfall as the man became homeless and hopeless. There are all kinds of tragic events in between anyone may feel related to. One day, Neal wakes up with no money at all and he is humiliated by a restaurant bouncer while trying to use the bathroom there. 

Finally, Neale hit rock bottom one day when he finds himself eating a hamburger taken from the garbage. A kid is watching him and Neale tries to hide, but he breaks down… and who wouldn’t? So here it goes the first poetic license: for God’s sake he stays alive and decides to go on, not choosing a fake escape. 

After years of hard struggle, he gets a job as a radio host and things begin to change. New friends come along and money starts to flow. He even rents a decent apartment and those starving days are now in the past.  However, the friends he made on the streets are always close to his heart. 

Eventually the radio company he works for files for bankruptcy and he loses hope again. After some weeks the most controversial though interesting part of the story begins: he suddenly hears the “voice of God” or at least this is what the author claims. Of course, there is no real proof of this whatsoever, but this is what gave birth to those books.

Neale now experiences financial success beyond belief and at the same time he finds his ‘God-space’ so to speak, a place full with peace and love. This is not so corny or something created by Hollywood: after all, every religion represents God with these very same qualities. But what a shame that this message often gets lost with all the guilt added to the mix to control people!

The book offers some remarkable ideas and quotes and a few of them are included in this movie. This is a never-ending topic, but here are some highlights.

According to Neale, God’s message is all about love, compassion and self-acceptance. There is no space for judgment or guilt. Also, in those ‘conversations’ that mighty voice says that we have a very limited time here on Earth, so we shouldn’t waste it doing something we don’t love, not even for a moment: True masters are those who've chosen to make a life rather than a living.

Spiritual arguments aside, the movie is very enjoyable. Henry Czerny is a wonderful actor and Wilma Silva’s natural talent makes you feel that Leora is the friend that everyone needs. As an extra bonus, the cinematography and music are right on point.

But the topic of God will always be in conflict with the things going on around the world. I mean, why He (or She) doesn’t stop all the atrocities happening  now? There's no answer for that, of course, and both atheists and pessimists would answer with a plain and simple “there is no God in Heaven”, paying an involuntary tribute to Nietzsche’s most famous quote.


So that, maybe our free will is the most powerful tool to create and recreate our own reality, even impacting other people’s lives in a great form. I don’t know about you, but the idea of God shouldn’t be about fear, sin and guilt, but about loving and protecting children, helping the needy, helping yourself and loving your dear ones every day more. In this way I’m on God’s side forever more. Does it mean we should go to church every Sunday to obey without asking questions? Not necessarily .

Neale Donald Walsch changed his life and he gives God the credit for it. So this movie will have a different meaning for everyone. It could be seen as a bunch of pseudo-religious crap or it could be a life changing experience. It is exactly like praying: if only more people knew that blind faith can literally change their lives, they would go to their own 'God- space' a lot more often. This fascinating concept goes beyond religion and anyone can practice it. Yes, even the atheists. 

          

In this context, God is not an angry old man sitting in some white clouds ready to punish you: is a driving force within you capable of achieving amazing things that some people would rush to label as ‘miracles’. Personal beliefs aside, it is time to remember that we all are more powerful than we know and that power is at hand at any given moment.



"Do you remember the question: What would love do know? Answer that question and I will be there always... in always". 

December 28, 2014


Conversations With God
USA, 2006

Samuel Goldwyn Pictures
Directed by Stephen Simon
Written by Eric DelaBarre
Starring: Henry Czerny, Wilma Silva, Michael Gorjian and T. Bruce Page
Music: Emilio Kauderer
Cinematography: João Fernandes










 

28 dic. 2014

Ladri di Biciclette [1948]

29 nov. 2014

November 29, 2014

Ladri di Biciclette is the ultimate masterwork of Italian neoralism and an engaging film whose influence has lasted for over sixty years. Vittorio De Sica’s vision about the eagerness of a post-war society unequivocally trying to fit in the world again, pleased the critics and conquered the audience’s heart. Furthermore, it reflects the yearnings of any given person around the world desperately trying to change their destiny. Within this context, any legitimate sign may lead to an unprecedented personal evolution when you least expect it.

That sign in this movie takes the form of a bicycle. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is a struggling father of two children trying to find a new job in his natal Italy after the end of World War II. His wife Maria (Lianella Carell) supports him unconditionally, and after the hard-faced man finds a new job, she pawns the family’s dowry bed sheets to redeem Antonio’s bicycle. He needs it to finish his work on time, as he will be posting advertising bills in the streets of Rome. One of those shows a stunning Rita Hayworth (in Gilda) and the glamour of the Hollywood star absolutely contrasts with Antonio’s precarious condition.

The bicycle gets stolen later, giving rise to several adventures in order to get it back. Antonio walks the streets in the company of Bruno (Enzo Staiola), his 8-year old son, and they get into any kind of trouble looking for the vehicle, with no success at all. 

Now, let’s pay attention to the small details. Most of the movies from the neorealist movement dealt with common people’s misery and their never-ending fighting. However, there is always time for a little love and forgiveness, or in other words, one of the best sequences of Ladri di Biciclette: after hours of walking, father and son decide to take a break. They are beside a river and Antonio asks the kid if he wants to eat some pizza, as they both are hungry.  

Suddenly, Bruno’s face draws the most beautiful smile as he says yes. Vittorio De Sica’s cinematographic instinct shines in this brief yet gorgeous scene. The kid’s innocence is so real and pure that it almost hurts. Read between the lines to discover a very powerful message here: even in the worst day of your existence, a single display of love can change your life for good. 

Ladri di Biciclette offers a view of the elements that people want so desperately to hold on to after tragedy strikes, specially faith, superstition and everything in between. This is why Antonio chooses to consult a seer even when he's running out of money. It seems to be that in this world, the lack of self-trust is an even greater drama than poverty itself.

The desperate man eventually finds the thief, but he doesn't recover his bicycle. Hopefully at this point the most perceptive part of the audience already knows what the movie is really about: Antonio is not only trying to get his vehicle back. He is looking for the dignity that a messed-up world and the political system have stolen from him. He’s figuring out his purpose in life after the end of a war that no one wanted in the first place. But of course, evildoers know nothing about lost bicycles, hopes and dreams. Even so, the burning desire to change your own condition is a lot more powerful than the cruelest of worlds and can defeat the most soulless thieves. 


There has been a lot of discussion over the years about the final scene of the movie, after Antonio decides to steal someone else’s bicycle. He gets caught and the crowd insults and humiliates him, while he’s being muscled toward the police station. Fortunately, the owner forgives him, but the last sequence shows him walking fighting back tears of shame as he holds Bruno hand. 


Is this a brutal representation of hopelessness? Are they doomed to a fate of misery? That is a question that remains unanswered. Maybe Vittorio De Sica wanted the audience to do some soul searching before answering that. 

                  

I would like to think that Antonio and his family eventually overcame their problems and that day was just a memory in time. This was just another bad day for them, but fortunately for us, this collection of events is simply one of the best movies ever made. 



Finally, let’s remember that Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola have never acted before this film. Pretty impressive, as that didn’t prevent them from awakening our consciousness with their acting in a way that only the greatest masterpieces can do. 

Ladri di Biciclette
Umbrella Entertainment
Distributed by  Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Produced by PDS Produzioni De Sica
Written by Vittorio De Sica,  Cesare Savattini, Susso Cechi d'Amico, Gerardo Guerrieri, Oreste Biancoli and Adolfo Franci
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Vittorio Antonucci
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Cinematography: Carlo Montuori
Music: Alessandro Cicognini

29 nov. 2014

The Exorcist [1973]

2 nov. 2014



















El 12 de febrero de 1993, James Bulger de casi tres años de edad fue secuestrado por dos adolescentes, Robert Thompson y Jon Venables, en un centro comercial de Inglaterra aprovechando un descuido de su madre. Lo llevaron cerca de las vías de un tren donde lo golpearon, torturaron y se presume, de acuerdo a la investigación policial, que incluso abusaron sexualmente de él. Durante horas estos criminales observaron a diversos niños y al azar, según lo que arrojan las cámaras de seguridad, eligieron a James. Meses después declararon que la película de Terror 'Child's Play' los inspiró a cometer estos atroces actos. Aún con semejante argumento, no hay explicación para ello... en verdad, no hay explicación. 

La mayoría del público no está familiarizado con el nombre de Roland Doe. Este es el pseudónimo dado a un niño quien supuestamente sufrió en carne propia la agresión física y espiritual conocida religiosamente como posesión diabólica durante la época de los 40s en Estados Unidos. Tan extremo fue su caso, que tuvo que ser sometido a una serie de exorcismos durante varios días.

Todo esto sin embargo, carece de pruebas suficientes para afirmar su veracidad. No obstante, dio origen a uno de los libros más célebres de las últimas décadas: The Exorcist (El Exorcista), de la autoría de William Peter Blatty. La adaptación cinematográfica dirigida por William Friedkin es considerada por fuentes diversas, entre ellas  TimeOut.com, como la más grande película de Terror de todos los tiempos. Un título bastante merecido, a pesar de que tanto el libro como el filme van de lo absurdo a lo sublime y de lo más grotesco a lo más noble. 



Esta heterogeneidad es lo que convierte a las grandes obras en archivos imperecederos, objetos de estudio y deleite para las generaciones venideras. Por fortuna, Friedkin rindió un tributo adecuado al libro aún con las limitaciones de la pantalla grande.

La historia de Regan (Linda Blair), una niña de 12 años cuya vida feliz y de ensueño al lado de su madre Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) se ve interrumpida por una dramática y horripilante transformación física y emocional, sigue siendo tan perturbadora ahora como hace 40 años cuando fue estrenada.

Regan tiene todo lo que una adolescente puede soñar, excepto la presencia de su padre. A pesar de ello el amor de su madre lo compensa todo. Su relación es inmejorable y ninguna de las dos sospecha siquiera el infierno terrenal que les espera.

Una tabla ouija con la que la jovencita suele jugar frecuentemente simboliza la puerta de entrada para lo desconocido. Poco a poco la otrora optimista y energética chiquilla se transforma en un ser rebelde y fuera de sí, para el espanto de su madre y quienes la rodean, como la asistente de Chris y tutora de Regan, Sharon (Kitty Winn). 

Luego de la muerte de su amigo y director, Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran), la preocupación de Chris crece cada día. Después de recibir la visita del Detective Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb), quien investiga la muerte de Dennings, se desata el pavoroso incidente con el cual su corazón de madre se quiebra casi totalmente: ella escucha voces en la planta alta y corre desesperada para ayudar a su hija. Aunque ya antes había presenciado cosas realmente desquiciantes, entre ellas Regan pidiendo a gritos a sus doctores que la forniquen, nada de esto se compara con lo que ve en esta ocasión.

Chris presencia como su hija se destroza los órganos sexuales con un crucifijo de metal. Aunque incluso el director y escritor han llamado a esta escena “masturbación” en pantalla, este no es el término correcto: es una auto-violación cuyo objetivo es profanar por completo el cuerpo de la niña. Chris es agredida por ella y luego escucha la voz de Burke Dennings (imitada por la entidad malévola) confirmando que fue asesinado a manos de Regan, mientras la cabeza de ésta gira totalmente. La secuencia es con todos los méritos, una de las más grotescas en la historia de la cinematografía contemporánea.

Chris es atea y por lo tanto la mayoría de los asuntos religiosos no tienen mayor cabida en su cabeza. Aquí se enfatiza la primera gran moraleja (con un fuerte toque puritano) de The Exorcist: ante la situación extrema que vive con su hija, decide recurrir a la ayuda de Dios representado en el sacerdote y psiquiatra Damien Karras (Jason Miller). 

Karras es tan complejo como interesante, incomprensible y en un sentido bastante bizarro, entrañable. William Peter Blatty desnudó de toda mojigatería a este personaje y lo vistió con un total y absoluto sentido humano. Él es el hijo amoroso, posteriormente inundado de culpa por no tener el dinero suficiente para lograr que su madre pase sus últimos días en un asilo decente (más adelante la señora muere en total soledad). Es también el héroe y el anti-héroe, al no encajar en los moldes que el cine otorgaba a los ministros religiosos antes de El Exorcista.  

Damien Karras no es representado como hombre santo ni mucho menos. Su crisis espiritual tiene un gran peso en la historia y sus miedos, emociones y sueños frustrados estelarizan la película con vida propia. De la noche a la mañana su camino se cruza con el de la familia MacNeil y accede a ver a Regan pero sólo como psiquiatra. A pesar de ello, comprueba con ojos propios que la lucha contra la que se enfrentarán tanto él y la madre de la niña no es contra sangre y carne, como el libro religioso cristiano por excelencia –la Biblia- lo afirma, sino contra una poderosa y muy oscura fuerza sobrenatural.


Karras se ve obligado a platicar con el demonio dentro de Regan. Éste se vale de toda táctica para confundirlo, pero la ética y fuerza del sacerdote lo salvan de caer en sus argucias. Por extraño que suene, enfrentarse con el mal cara a cara lo hace olvidar momentáneamente su propia penuria.

Luego de no encontrar otro recurso que la ayuda de alguien mucho más experimentado, el Padre Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) es enviado para auxiliar al joven sacerdote. El viejo enemigo de Pazuzu (el demonio que habita en la niña) vuelve para luchar contra él en una batalla espectacular y épica.

La fascinante, hipnotizante y poderosa secuencia del exorcismo no tiene rival en su género. Friedkin y su equipo, sin utilizar los sofisticados efectos de los que ahora dispone la industria del cine, crearon un campo de acción donde los dos hombres enfrentan por última vez al destructor por excelencia. Como resultado, ambos pierden su vida (pero no sus almas) y Regan es liberada. 




The Exorcist, de acuerdo con su creador, es un filme acerca del misterio de la fe. En realidad representa mucho más que eso y las múltiples lecturas de las subtramas la convierten en una de las películas de culto más fascinantes que existen.

Suena extraño que tal película ofrezca una paralizante belleza, exaltada principalmente por la fotografía de Owen Roizman y la ambientación en general. Yuxtaponer el natural amor materno (Chris MacNeil y la madre de Demian) con el más cruel horror es un recordatorio del violento contraste del mundo en el que vivimos. Por otra parte, la parábola del sacrificio del cordero para brindar vida eterna al pecador oprimido, está representada -evidentemente- en la muerte de ambos sacerdotes. 

Luego de la caída de Demian por la ventana, con su cuerpo al final de las legendarias escaleras de la mansión, su mejor amigo, el Padre Joseph Dyer (Reverendo William O'Malley) acude para asistirlo en sus últimos momentos y lo confiesa con manos temblorosas. Del terror nacen las lágrimas y un despliegue de amistad pura e incondicional logra que el espectador deje de contener la respiración. Este mismo nexo de lealtad es apreciado en la relación entre Chris y Sharon, incluso en los momentos más difíciles.

La escena del exorcismo brilla por sí sola en la película. La icónica toma en la que Merrin y Karras suben las escaleras con el estruendo de los abominables alaridos y lamentos del pestilente ser que se encuentra tan cerca de ellos (el trabajo del mexicano Gonzalo Gavira y el equipo de sonido les hizo ganar un Oscar, de hecho) somete al espectador a una angustiante agonía fílmica.

Ambos hombres caminan con pasos lentos y pesados, como un par de condenados a la pena capital viviendo sus últimos instantes. Karras sufre en silencio, pero Merrin, totalmente absorto en el momento presente, pregunta con total gallardía y serenidad a Chris cuál es el otro nombre de Regan. Max Von Sydow está impecable, como también lo están Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Lee J. Cobb, Jason Miller y en general todos los actores. 

Las lágrimas de Chris en ese momento simbolizan las del sufrimiento de cualquier madre sin importar su condición, o incluso aquellas que la Biblia relata que María derramó al ver a su Hijo ser sacrificado ante sus ojos. ¿Suena fuera de contexto esta referencia? No tanto, tomando en cuenta que esta fue una de las primeras películas en mezclar imágenes religiosas con sexo, cine gore y desorbitante violencia. 

Demian escucha por momentos la voz de su madre durante el exorcismo. Aquel sonido que una vez simbolizó esperanza, protección y amor ahora se ha convertido en un burdo engaño del Padre de Mentiras [Juan 8:44], el que utiliza los recursos más bajos para confundir y herir. Como un inocente presenciando la decadencia y pestilencia del mundo actual, Demian observa en estado de semi-hipnopsis cómo la cama se sacude y eleva ante su mirada atónita, sin dar crédito a los grotescos ruidos que emanan de la garganta de la niña poseída. 

Cada gesto de Regan es una amenaza latente para Demian. Cada mirada y cada palabra laceran todo lo que aprendió durante su preparación sacerdotal y lo hacen dudar constantemente de su propia fe, en un momento donde no hay tiempo para dudas ni reclamos, ya que su propia alma y la de su maestro están en juego a cada segundo.

Lejos de impactar con los recursos gráficos, muy explícitos pero ridículos de la mayoría de los filmes de horror actuales, The Exorcist juega hábilmente con la mente del espectador y lo enfrenta con su propia miseria, miedos y desesperanza. La perturbadora posibilidad de que la vida se transforme de bella en insoportable en apenas unos instantes, es magnificada en secuencias que exhiben la peor de las depravaciones y la más pestilente bajeza. 

El  acobardamiento del Gran Destructor ante la presencia del Creador es la esperanza máxima para millones de creyentes. Pero en el más puro sentido espiritual, ambos, Creador y Destructor, viven dentro de cada ser humano y se alimentan de pensamientos, sueños, emociones y creencias.  


William Friedkin tal vez jamás imaginó el impacto que su trabajo tendría en críticos, público y colegas por igual. El fenómeno cultural que desató rompió esquemas y de repente las reglas del cine de Terror fueron cambiadas para siempre. Lo explícito de las escenas trastornó a la audiencia de aquel entonces. Cuarenta y un años después, The Exorcist permanece sin ser vista por un gran sector del público, quienes juran que luego de estas dos horas no podrían dormir por varias noches. 

¿Exageración total o simplemente la prueba del malévolo poder de esta cinta clásica? Mientras esta pregunta es respondida, cabe recordar que es esta una de las pocas películas de Terror que es mencionada siempre en la lista de las mejores, sin distinción de género. 


Por fortuna estará siempre con nosotros nuestro gran amigo, el Detective Kinderman. Este simpático caballero es capaz de ofrecernos su amistad, una sonrisa y una invitación al cine después del holocausto. En ese preciso instante, respiramos tranquilos y nos damos cuenta que todo está en perfectas condiciones.




















The Exorcist guarda también un cierto aire de ingenuidad. ¿Es esto posible? En realidad no es la intención de la película ni del autor. Pero la impecable narrativa trasladada al mundo real, carece de sentido al menos en el panorama general.

La idea de que una niña de doce años atada a una cama resulte ser una amenaza tan aterradora, nos recuerda que en este mundo retorcido no siempre se presta atención a lo verdaderamente importante. De aquí la pregunta: ¿cuál es el verdadero rostro del mal?

Los relatos de ex-satanistas que escaparon con vida de sus cultos arrojan información al respecto. El detalle de cómo niños pequeños son secuestrados, violados, torturados y finalmente sacrificados para ofrecérselos a un ser mitológico (el "diablo" por instancia), no sólo ofrece un vistazo a la inmensa estupidez humana, sino al enorme grado de responsabilidad que tenemos como hacedores de bien y mal en este planeta.








¿Cuál es el rostro de la maldad? ¿Acaso no lo vemos al leer sobre los acontecimientos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, donde en cada ciudad invadida se mataron de la forma más horrible posible a niños, mujeres y hombres por igual, en ocasiones sometiéndolos a largas torturas que ningún civil inocente debería sufrir? ¿Es preciso que alguien se presente con el rostro completamente deforme, como Regan, para que tengamos que considerarlo indeseable o abominable? ¿No hemos escuchado ya suficiente acerca de los crímenes de la iglesia Católica y sus delitos pendientes, que incluyen abusos innombrables de niños y niñas? 

¿Qué hay las acciones de gobiernos imperialistas, como el de Estados Unidos, quienes han provocado los peores enfrentamientos bélicos y financiado guerrillas en naciones del tercer mundo (Irak y El Salvador son los mejores ejemplos)? ¿Acaso no han leído acerca de la brutalidad que estas sociedades han vivido por causa de ello? Al escuchar en las noticias acerca de padres asesinando a golpes a sus propios hijos, ¿no nos preguntamos por un solo instante que tal vómito humano representa en efecto la perversidad más horrenda y condenable, sin atribuírsela a “Satanás” o a cualquier ser similar? 

¿Hasta cuándo dejaremos de culpar a seres sobrenaturales (que por definición nadie jamás ha visto) de nuestras propias acciones y decisiones?




















El texto de apertura referente a James Burgler fue puesto como ejemplo precisamente con esa intención. Este acontecimiento ocurrido en Inglaterra en 1993 muestra el auténtico rostro de la maldad sin sentido y he ahí el infierno en la tierra que el propio ser humano ha creado.

La verdadera iniquidad e inmoralidad no se encuentran en sórdidas habitaciones con adolescentes poseídas. Se localiza afuera, en cada acción destinada a destruir la civilización moderna y lo más preciado que toda nación tiene. Esa es la depravación y suciedad que debería ser erradicada de las mismas entrañas de la faz de la tierra, por siempre y para siempre.

De repente, la imagen de Linda Blair levitando con los ojos completamente en blanco, en uno de los instantes más impactantes de The Exorcist, no parece tan inquietante. Es tan sólo un impresionante momento cinematográfico capturado en el tiempo y un perturbador recuerdo de la más grande película de horror que jamás se haya filmado.


Noviembre 2, 2014
 

 

The Exorcist, 1973
Estados Unidos
Distribuída por Warner Bros
Escrita y producida por William Peter Blatty
Dirigida por William Friedkin
Actuaciones de: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Father William O'Malley
Fotografía: Owen Roizman
Editada por Norman Gay, Jordan Leondopoulos, Evan A. Lottman, Bud S. Smith
Música: Jack Nitzche

2 nov. 2014

The Exorcist [1973]

31 oct. 2014

Father Damien Karras: Why her? Why this girl?
Father Merrin: I think the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as animal and ugly. To make us reject the possibility that God could love us. 

Note: This review includes both the original theatrical release and the 2000's "Version You've Never Seen". 

Producing the most important movie of any given film genre it isn’t an easy task for a filmmaker. Actually, they never know what is going to happen with their work. They just put their blood, sweat and tears into their films and the audience and critics are left to draw their own conclusions.

Writer William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin can tell a lot about it, as they are the masterminds behind The Exorcist, often regarded as the scariest movie of all time.

But that is just an understatement. 

The story was allegedly based on a real case: in the late 1940s a group of Catholic priests performed a series of exorcisms on a young boy whose real name still remains undisclosed, though he is known as Roland Doe

William Peter Blatty’s book is a fictional representation of Doe’s tribulation, even though author Thomas B. Allen claims in his 1993 book Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism that there was nothing supernatural about this child. Be as it may, The Exorcist became a bestseller and its film adaptation is a state-of-the-art masterpiece, to say the least.

Regan (Linda Blair) is a twelve year-old girl full of life. She’s living the life of her dreams  with her mother, the actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), despite her father’s absence. Miss MacNeil is a brilliant and smart woman who doesn’t believe in any kind of God or supernatural affairs. She just wants the best for her daughter and the love between them seems to be an unbreakable bond. 

That’s why they cannot even imagine the hell they are going to live. Regan’s behavior starts to change little by little, up to the point where her personality has drastically changed. The beautiful preteen dreamer is now gone and a monster has appeared.

William Friedkin captured the book’s essence in a magnificent way. His artistic vision was so accurate and intense that the groundbreaking sequences changed the Horror genre for good. The best example of this is one of the most grotesque and graphic (yet fascinating) movie scenes of all time: after Burke Dennings (played by Jack MacGowran), a film director and one of Chris’ closest friends) is murdered while taking care of Regan, Detective William F. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) opens and investigation and visits the house. 

The pleasant yet very sharp gentleman gets along very well with Chris, but his questions led her to find out that Dennings was killed by a very disordered Regan herself. 

After Kinderman leaves, the deeply saddened mother hears two different voices coming from the girls’ bedroom. There is a deep voice demanding Regan to “do it” and there’s her own voice begging him to stop. Then Chris enters the room as all kinds of objects are flying and she sees how Regan, now with an extremely deformed face, is literally raping herself with a crucifix. 

She tries to stop her, but the evidently possessed girl forces her own mother to lick her bleeding crotch and brutally slaps her. Then Denning’s voice is heard, as Regan’s head completely spins, confirming the theory that he was killed by the once innocent young woman. 
 
Maybe Mr. Friedkin didn’t know at that time that the innocence of a whole generation of moviegoers would be taken away with such scene. The audience was used to watch some werewolves and vampire movies from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Such depiction of violence and the mix of religious imagery, sex and horror were indeed too disturbing. But, isn’t a pioneer’s job to change the rules?

One of the movie’s most fascinating characters is Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller). He's both a spiritually tormented man and a loving son. This saintless portrait of a Catholic priest as a man and not as a miracle maker -as many people would like to believe- works perfectly on every level of filmmaking. Such character is any director’s dream and William Friedkin knew exactly how to draw on Karras’ life experiences to embody a thirty-something man walking a wandering way in his search for spiritual enlightenment. 

Karras, who is also a psychiatrist, is struggling with his own inner demons and eventually faces the loss of his mother, who spent her last days blaming him for leaving her behind in a sordid mental institution. In fact, the lack of money stopped him from sending her to a decent retirement home and this feeling of guilt haunts him until his very last moment. 

Then, the non-believer Chris MacNeil desperately seeks for Karras’ help to exorcize Regan, after most doctors have given up on her. The young man agrees to see her and he does what no one else would dare to do. Suddenly, he’s talking to the devil, or at least this is the name that the entity inside of Regan gives itself.

The last part of the movie shows both Karras and Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) exorcizing Regan. Merrin is facing an old and powerful enemy and this last effort could cost him his life. Eventually it does, but not before an epic battle takes place, one that broke every rule in the book of what a Horror movie was supposed to be. For almost twenty minutes, the goodness and high intentions of the two warriors protecting Regan’s soul collide against the most disgusting immorality and depravity. The demon inside Regan (Pazuzu) tortures the two priests emotionally while draining them physically.

The beautiful and talented Linda Blair, who became a pop culture phenomenon right after The Exorcist, has stated in some interviews that is not a Horror movie. Some might agree with her, as this is a film about the nature of evil and the question that haunts most people in the darkest moments of their existences: Is there any kind of God loving us? Is there a Higher Being above in Heaven? If such childish belief is true, then, why does He allow so much pain and suffering in this world?

Both Friedkin and Blatty agree that the movie has a personal meaning for every member of the audience. We as spectators are entitled to reflect on our own approach to make up our minds. However, The Exorcist is so complex that the analysis of every subplot, rather than the whole movie itself, is a very intriguing and captivating process.  

The exaltation of the Mother figure both in Regan and Karras’ lives is a very important part of the story. In Chris’ case specially, the potential loss of her offspring through an evil spirit and the subsequent fight for Regan’s soul might be a metaphor for Mary’s ordeal while accompanying Jesus on his way to the crucifixion, as told in The Bible.

The Exorcist’s spectacular cinematography, sound editing and setting created a very strange kind of beauty: when the two priests go upstairs to fight their last battle, there is an astonishing contrast between the unbearable sounds coming from the room and Chris’ anguish and tears. Even in such unimaginable situation, a mother’s love is stronger than fear. She’s in pain in exactly the same way as if her daughter was suffering from any given disease, but for cinema’s sake of course, she is possessed by a demon

Merrin’s togetherness fills the scene while he quietly asks Chris about Regan’s middle name, as if he wasn’t aware of the danger and rottenness that lies just a few steps ahead. The devoted man of God is very much living in the present moment, a spiritual quality that Damien lacks.

During the exorcism, Damien's faith and patience are tested over and over and he even listens again the “voice” of his defunct mother. That sound that once meant love and joy is now a bizarre sequence of words coming from the father of lies himself. 

Far away from using the over-the-top tricks of modern Horror movies, The Exorcist plays with a latent lack of hope and the disturbing possibility that the places we once loved might become a minefield set to destroy us. In such horrific scenario, the price for our freedom could be the highest one.


At the end of the movie, the two men give their own lives so the young girl may live, and this is the ultimate religious metaphor, of course: the sacrifice of the Lamb leads to eternity. Death becomes life again and resurrection is a miracle made with pain and unspeakable affliction.

There are also those elements that make of this all-time classic an even more enjoyable experience: the representation of true friendship and loyalty (Chris and her assistant Sharon, played by Kitty Winn). The search for eternal peace (Damien’s wordless confession while dying as being held by his best friend, Father Joseph Dyer). And finally the presence of Detective Kinderman at the end, asking Father Dyer (Father William O'Malley) to go to the movies with him. 

Suddenly, as William Friedkin said himself in an interview, everything is right in the world again. Kinderman’s fondness for those simple pleasures remind us that no matter how stormy our path has been, there will always be time to smile again.  

The Exorcist is a lot more than green vomit, freakish head spins and well achieved sound effects (Gonzalo Gavira did a great job, by the way). It is a haunting masterpiece about fear, hope, love and the mystery of God, created with no expensive computer effects at all yet scaring people worldwide for over four decades now. It just takes a legendary director, an extraordinary crew and a group of gifted actors  (it would take a whole book to talk about the talent of each one of them, Burstyn, Blair, Max von Sydow, Miller and the whole cast) to make a film like this.

But appearances can be deceiving: the idea of evil represented in a possessed girl tied to her bed is also kind of naïve.  So it is time to know about real evil:  let’s find out about the most powerful nations promoting and supporting wars in Middle-East countries in order to own their natural resources and killing thousands of innocent men, children and women in the process. 

Let’s do some research and see how many children have been raped and abused by Catholic priests and nuns for centuries. And every time you open a newspaper or watch the news, you’ll hear from time to time about parents beating their babies to death.

That is the real face of evil. And this is the kind of wickedness that should be wiped off the face of the Earth, once and for all. 

Suddenly, the image of Linda Blair levitating off bed with blank eyes doesn’t seem so terrifying. It’s just a mesmerizing film moment in time from the greatest Horror movie ever made. 

October 31, 2014

           

The Exorcist, 1973
USA
Distributed by Warner Bros
Written and produced by William Peter Blatty
Directed by William Friedkin
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Father William O'Malley
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Edited by Norman Gay, Jordan Leondopoulos, Evan A. Lottman, Bud S. Smith
Music by Jack Nitzche

31 oct. 2014