Sustainable Pace

January 3rd, 2021

William Friedkin - The Exorcist (1973)

I'm not a fan of horror movies. I'm easily scared by loud noises and just hints of blood make me dizzy. But then again, "The Exorcist" is not a horror movie. To me, it merely uses elements of the horror genre to address much more profound topics, like the question of faith in a world that is seemingly inhabited by evil forces.

The central character is not the 12-year-old Regan (played by Linda Blair), who is possessed by the devil, or the aging Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who performs the actual exorcism. It is the assisting Father Karras (Jason Miller), a guilt-ridden young priest who struggles to keep his faith. His confrontation with his inner demons is visualized by the demon that has taken hold of the young girl, and the actual exorcism is an intense way to escalate this inner conflict and finally brings it to an eerie, ambiguous, but satisfying resolution.

The director William Friedkin establishes the setup with his signature documentary-like style, that also made his previous film "The French Connection" an Academy Award winner. The pace may seem slow compared to current films, but even the seemingly odd exposition that shows Father Merrin during an archaeological excavation in Iraq is establishing the core themes and symbols that become relevant as the drama plays out.

I recommend you watch this film with headphones or a great sound system, because the sound design and voice acting (Mercedes McCambridge) is a crucial element in creating tension throughout the whole film. The attention to detail is stunning - just watch the 2019 documentary "Leap of Faith" after the feature film, as it lets Friedkin tell lots if interesting aspects about the making of this film.