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The Exorcist

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Well, I searched high and low for an Exorcist thread, but didn't manage to come up with one. I Netflixed this one because a)I've never seen it and it was on our A&F Top 100, and cool.gifI'm really looking forward to Emily Rose and I thought I should see this movie to be able to judge how it compares. Here are a few thoughts:

I remember Christian criticisms of this film that it glorifies the power of evil and shows good as a helpless force against it. I agree to some extent. Damien's character is definitely written to be a weak man. In fact, I was almost expecting the Exorcist to send him home and request a stronger assistant. The Exorcist, on the other hand I found to be a man of very impressive strength. He shows such calm determination during the long exorcism scene.... Very impressive. He and Damien are sort of opposites of eachother: while Damien has health and physical strength his faith is weak, and the Exorcist is physically frail, but a spiritual strongman. His strength was so palpable that I just knew that the only way he could fail was if the demon would physically destroy him.

spoilers1.gif

The question that this seems to lead to is, Is Damien's sacrifice at the end, his command to the demon to "take him" and his subsequent suicide a redeeming act of faith, or a final concession to his weakness? He seems to be motivated by the death of the Exorcist, so it seems like this certainly an act of desparation. His hope was that this great man would be able to heal Regan, but when that hope is doomed he takes the last route he can see. Again, I can see two sides: an act of desparation is not an act of resignation. His action shows that Damien is determined to go to any length to save Regan and he at least has some faith that he can do so in taking the demon upon himself. On the other hand, it's an act of weakness in the same way that suicide is always (please no one feel I'm being insensitive by saying this), always an act of weakness. Life has just become too hard to endure. In Damien's case, rather than recollect his faith and continue the Exorcist's work through prayer and scripture, he chooses to take an easier shortcut (which was what the demon wanted anyway, it said as much in the conversation with Damien where it said that it was looking forward to getting to know him better during the exorcism.

But still, "Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends." The more I think about it, the more I feel like Damien's final actions elevate, rather than lower, my feelings toward his character. Had the Exorcist himself been successful, Damien would haven't undergone any change or growth through the movie. His final act seems to be an improvement upon his character, though perhaps less of one than you would hope he could make....

Oh yeah, I really liked it. I don't think I'll ever see it again, except to watch it with someone who hasn't seen it before, but I really enjoyed the emphasis the film placed on the limits of science against the supernatural. I don't know if the filmmaker was a Christian or not, but except *perhaps* for elevating Damien's character I don't know what more the film could have done to paint the church as a relevant institution. The bit with the Ouiji board and the desicrated Madonna actually reminded me of a Chick tract smile.gif I know that stuff is real sometimes, but those things have gone quite a ways in building up more cynicism within me than is probably healthy.

Edited by solishu

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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I am a little pushed for time this morning, but I want to briefly say that I have always read Damien's sacrifice as a noble and heroic act. He does what is necessary to save the girl. I disagree with those people who say that the film glorifies evil. In fact, William Peter Blatty has said that he wrote The Exorcist in order to scare people back to faith.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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There were also a few bits that I didn't quite know what to make of. What comes to mind at the moment is the two exchanges the priests have with the policeman where he asks if they want to see a movie, they ask who's in it, he tells them, and they say they've seen it already. It's such a formalized exchange, if this was a spy movie you'd think that this was a code or something, and is repeated so emphatically that I can't just brush it off, but I'm clueless as far as how to read it.


Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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solishu wrote:

: Well, I searched high and low for an Exorcist thread, but didn't manage to come up

: with one.

Ahem. We discuss all five movies in the series there.

And assuming you're referring to "The Version You Have Never Seen", it's more of a "writer's cut" than a "restored version" -- the director still stands by the original, I believe.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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solishu wrote:

: Well, I searched high and low for an Exorcist thread, but didn't manage to come up

: with one.

Ahem.  We discuss all five movies in the series there.

And assuming you're referring to "The Version You Have Never Seen", it's more of a "writer's cut" than a "restored version" -- the director still stands by the original, I believe.

Arg! I looked through 4 or 5 pages of threads, but seemed to miss that one.... Thanks. I just called it "the restored version" because that's how Netflix listed it.


Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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Here's a quote from William Peter Blatty regarding the death of Father Damien:

The priest won. He lured the demon out of the girl and into himself; then battles the demon's attempt to strangle the girl (using Karras's body to do it) and throws himself out the window before any harm can come to Regan. Mortal death is not a defeat; only death of the spirit is a true loss.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Link to the thread on Exorcist: The Beginning, where we discuss all five of the Exorcist movies, including sequels and prequels.

Link to my post comparing the 1973 and 2000 versions of the film, and how the 2000 version "hides little demons" in the shadows in precisely the way that Friedkin, recording his DVD commentary in 1998, said he had AVOIDED doing.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I am a little pushed for time this morning, but I want to briefly say that I have always read Damien's sacrifice as a noble and heroic act. He does what is necessary to save the girl. I disagree with those people who say that the film glorifies evil. In fact, William Peter Blatty has said that he wrote The Exorcist in order to scare people back to faith.

I don't know if his tactics worked to scare people back to the faith, but it certainly did scare them. For a good time go to the IMDB message board discussion of this film. All these people talk about is that the film totally jarred them into a state of fear -- in a few cases, a permanent state of fear (there's a guy that hasn't slept without the TV on for the last thirty years since seeing the film, etc.)

Link to the thread "I'M NEVER SEEING THIS FREAKIN' SCARY MOVIE AGAIN!"

I haven't seen it in two decades, and it scared the crap out of me at the time I saw it. I'm in a 70s frame of mind lately though. Maybe I'll watch it again soon.

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I recently discovered that Blatty co-wrote (with the director) the screenplay for A Shot in the Dark (1964), i.e. the second Pink Panther / Inspector Clouseau movie; in fact, it's the one that introduces Herbert Lom as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. And in the DVD extras for The Exorcist, someone -- I believe it's Friedkin -- points out that Blatty was best known as a comedy writer, prior to writing his demonic-possession novel (which he then turned into a screenplay). That's just weird.

As it happens, I happened to pick up the Pink Panther DVD set as a Christmas gift for my parents this year (it's missing only one of the films that starred Peter Sellers, but they already have that one on DVD; it's also missing all of the non-Sellers films). I think I'll have to borrow A Shot in the Dark and see what Blatty was up to, there.

I already find myself thinking of how Friedkin, in his Exorcist commentary track, says that the Lee J. Cobb character, Lt. Kinderman, was an unusual sort of detective for his time and may have inspired the likes of Columbo (though the IMDB indicates that Peter Falk played Columbo in one 1968 TV-movie, six 1971 TV-movies -- one of which was directed by Steven Spielberg! -- six 1972 TV-movies and eight 1973 TV-movies by the time The Exorcist premiered on Boxing Day 1973). Then again, there were 24 more Columbo TV-movies between 1974 and 1978, and another 24 between 1989 and 2003, so perhaps there was some evolution in the character. Or perhaps Friedkin is thinking of the influence that Blatty's NOVEL had on the character (oh, but wait, he specifically refers to Cobb's portrayal of Kinderman, doesn't he?). Or perhaps Friedkin meant to say that Columbo was inspired by one of the characters in A Shot in the Dark. Or perhaps Friedkin is just plain wrong or confused or delusional on this point.

Complete side-step: Blatty mentions on the DVD that, when he wrote the novel, he wanted the character of Chris McNeil to be a regular woman, someone like his friend Shirley Maclaine! So now I can't help wondering what the film would have been like if Shirley Maclaine, rather than Ellen Burstyn, had played the girl's mother. (Friedkin says the studio wanted Audrey Hepburn, who would only do it if they relocated the story to Rome; Jane Fonda, who flatly turned them down; or one other actress, but I forget who she was or why it didn't work out.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Okay, re: the Columbo connection, I just finished listening to the Blatty commentary on the 1998 disc.

He says that he was talking to an agent or a producer or something while he was negotiating the sale of film and TV rights to the novel -- this would have been before the novel came out, I think -- and that he demanded a certain amount of control over the TV rights to the Lt. Kinderman character specifically.

He speculates that the other party went away and modelled Columbo after the Lt. Kinderman character; yes, Columbo had existed in a Broadway stage play, which provided the basis for the 1968 TV-movie, but Blatty says the character in that play did NOT have certain characteristics that both Kinderman and Columbo would go on to have in common.

And as it happens, the second Columbo TV-movie didn't come out until 1971 -- three years after the first TV-movie, and the same year that Blatty's novel came out -- so who knows, maybe there is something to this theory.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't know if his tactics worked to scare people back to the faith, but it certainly did scare them. For a good time go to the IMDB message board discussion of this film. All these people talk about is that the film totally jarred them into a state of fear -- in a few cases, a permanent state of fear (there's a guy that hasn't slept without the TV on for the last thirty years since seeing the film, etc.)

I was an atheist when I first saw The Exorcist (a quarter of a century ago now - sheesh!), but I was immediately struck by the fact that it was selling something: Christianity. Since coming to Jesus I have seen it several times, and I am always deeply moved by the experience. Yes, it is scary (its genre is horror, so scary should be a given); and yes, it is ferocious stuff (its novelty was splatter, so ferocity is guaranteed); but it is also a serious attempt to show that Christianity is the ONLY adequate response to the evil in the world.

I find it odd that so many Christians refuse to go anywhere near this film, which is one of the great masterpieces of Christian cinema (possibly THE greatest masterpiece), yet they will happily list Star Wars - a piece of fluff with a decidedly pantheistic pitch - amongst their favourites. The Exorcist is one of the few films that actually strengthens my faith.

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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The Invisible Man wrote:

: . . . it is also a serious attempt to show that Christianity is the ONLY adequate response

: to the evil in the world.

I wouldn't go quite THAT far. I don't think the film favours any particular religion, and listening to Blatty's commentary suggests to me that he doesn't intend to go much beyond the idea that there is more to this life than the material world; the Jesuits who introduced him to the subject of demonic possession may provide a context for some aspects of Blatty's spiritual quest, but I don't think he is pushing a particularly Catholic or even Christian set of doctrines. (I am intrigued, BTW, by how Friedkin says his film is all about "rituals" -- medical rituals as well as religious rituals. Do ANY of these rituals accomplish anything, within the course of the film?)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I haven't seen it in a while, but I seem to recall that Blatty was pitching the film as Christian in Mark Kermode's documentary "Fear of God".


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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And I almost forgot, that interesting TV documentary that Matt appeared in last Easter seemed to read the film the same way.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Was the subliminal demon shot inspired by Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966)? (If memory serves, the other parallel that is explored at that link, involving two half-faces fused into a single face, only works if you're looking at the digitally-enhanced 2000 version of The Exorcist, rather than the original 1973 version.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And assuming you're referring to "The Version You Have Never Seen", it's more of a "writer's cut" than a "restored version" -- the director still stands by the original, I believe.

Or maybe not. An "extended director's cut" is coming to Blu-Ray -- and it may be identical to "The Version You Have Never Seen", which I guess would be an outdated title now, given that we DID see it ten years ago and all.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Los Angeles Times has a trailer for the Blu-Ray, which will apparently include "three new documentaries, including previously unreleased footage from the set, including makeup tests and behind-the-scenes and special-effects sequences."


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Variety says the "extended director's cut" will get a one-night-only screening in over 450 venues on September 30, one week before the Blu-Ray comes out.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't think the film favours any particular religion, and listening to Blatty's commentary suggests to me that he doesn't intend to go much beyond the idea that there is more to this life than the material world; the Jesuits who introduced him to the subject of demonic possession may provide a context for some aspects of Blatty's spiritual quest, but I don't think he is pushing a particularly Catholic or even Christian set of doctrines.

Well, I think to understand Blatty's ideas, you really have to read Blatty's follow-ups, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION and LEGION, which push things much further than THE EXORCIST did. What emerges is a unorthodox Christian vision of the world, highly influenced by the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin.

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Well, I think to understand Blatty's ideas, you really have to read Blatty's follow-ups, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION and LEGION, which push things much further than THE EXORCIST did. What emerges is a unorthodox Christian vision of the world, highly influenced by the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin.

I've been reading Teilhard de Chardin lately, having recently read about his influence on Flannery O'Connor. I'm very curious, can you explain what specifically about Blatty's faith is "unorthodox"?

Edited by Scott Derrickson

In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

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I'm very curious, can you explain what specifically about Blatty's faith is "unorthodox"?

In the loose trilogy of THE EXORICST, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, and LEGION, Blatty struggles with existence of evil and tries to find a solution. In his novel, LEGION, he supplies his answer for these issues, which is a cosmic myth is decidedly rooted in a kind of progressive evolution mixed with a kind of Christian theism. As far as the ideas he puts forth, the Big Bang was, more or less, the fall, and evolution is the process of creation returning to God, things being put together once again, stepping toward greater consciousness. That notion raises all kinds of challenges to the doctrines of Original Sin and the purpose of the Incarnation. As to how Blatty sees the demonic realm participating in this greater narrative, I'm not sure.

The influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is rather obvious, given Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's strong beliefs in orthogenesis, that, through evolution, the universe is growing increasingly conscious and is gradually approaching the Omega Point--Ultimate Consciousness--which, for all intents and purposes is God. I'm not sure that Blatty would equate the universe with God in the same way that Teilhard de Chardin does, but their sense of the cosmic narrative is similar.

Edited by Ryan H.

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William Peter Blatty is suing Georgetown University in Catholic Church court.

The author who turned Georgetown University into a horror scene in “The Exorcist” plans to sue the school in church court, charging that his alma mater has strayed so far from church doctrine that it should no longer call itself Catholic.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Daniel Silliman asks: why are most Hollywood exorcists Roman Catholic?

It's not because there are, as a matter of fact, more Catholic exorcists than Protestant. A recent study of the practices of Christian exorcists surveyed 170 who are active, of which only 2.3 percent were Catholic.

He offers four possibilities that seem to have varying degrees of likelihood--and that may, in fact, all contribute to some extent (i.e. iconic imagery combined with the the credibility of age, combined with unoriginality, etc etc etc).

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Daniel Silliman asks: why are most Hollywood exorcists Roman Catholic?

It's not because there are, as a matter of fact, more Catholic exorcists than Protestant. A recent study of the practices of Christian exorcists surveyed 170 who are active, of which only 2.3 percent were Catholic.

He offers four possibilities that seem to have varying degrees of likelihood--and that may, in fact, all contribute to some extent (i.e. iconic imagery combined with the the credibility of age, combined with unoriginality, etc etc etc).

Interesting article. I've wondered before about the idea of liturgical Roman Catholic exorcism in films. It's surely a better dramatic vehicle to work with a liturgy that can last from weeks to months (to my understanding) and which can sometimes be full of tension and conflict (also to my understanding), compared to a Protestant exorcism which I'd think would generally simply involve a demon being cast out at a revival meeting or what not, in a relatively short period of time.

Another thing is that Catholic exorcisms might seem more legitimate to the public eye because I'd expect that Catholics would be more inclined to research into and document their exorcisms, or at the very least the public would possibly perceive it this way.

Edited by Attica

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It's also the importance of sensing the ancient quality of the demonic. There's something inevitably less menacing about a demon older than Earth battling a Presbyterian or a Baptist. I read over 20 books on possession and exorcism while writing Emily Rose, and became convince that only Catholics had a real handle on the subject both practically and theologically.


In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

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