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The Exorcist 1973 :: William Friedkin, William Peter Blatty

 
 
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 02:12 pm
The Exorcist

I watched the digitally remastered directors cut, and William Friedkin (director) gave a short introduction. He said that what you take TO the film is what you get out of it, if you believe that the world is a dark place you will have this sentiment reinforced. If you believe that there are forces that are fighting the evil in the world you will take heart.

I would like to discuss the reasons for this film's longevity. Why do you think that the movie is still popular?

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I think that the film is eternal due to several important factors.

LW touched on its complexity (over at the Realm) and that's a huge factor.

I also think that our dogma is a prime factor. Of all the supernatural beliefs this film used the most common ones. I come from a religious background and though I am now an atheist and no longer believe in spirits or souls, the imagery and the power of the film was not lost on me. What I am trying to say is that most of us have been exposed to religious beliefs, so supernatural events that are a part of religion are easier to swallow (even if we don't believe it).

The film had great dramatic effect. It rarely went overboard in its portrayal of possession. It is as low-key as possible, vulgarity is only used in the "fit" scenes. This provides a stark contrast with the otherwise gentle world the film portrays. It's use of calm-to-excitement is perfect.

I also liked that the film did not fall prey to the use of gimmicks. there was one where the girl spins her head 180 degrees, but that was the only one I could remember. It was subtle, preferring to leave explanations aside.

There is only one real complaint that I have with the film. Exorcisms are performed with "the laying on of hands" and the film did not give much importance to the value of physical contact which is an inexorable part of exorcism rituals. I have witnessed many "exorcisms", they were not nearly as dramatic and in none of the cases did the "possessed" show any signs of possession. I grew up in a cult that routinely branded persons as having a "bad spirit". Their belief was that believers can not be possessed but can be "hindered". In other words the "bad spirit" would not enter the person, but rather hover around and follow.

I was considered a bad kid (which led to my expulsion from the cult) and was routinely subject to sessions in which "evil spirits" were "cast out". None of the sessions were dramatic and in most cases I was bored to death.

Even though I am now an atheist I still find that films about religion are easier to swallow that alien attacks, etc.

I loved the film, but it hasn't changed my thoughts or beliefs.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 9,758 • Replies: 43
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 03:53 pm
I found the film very frightening when it was released - although I have no belief in such things as possession, or devils etc - however my subconscious clearly does! - or, at least, the same basic fears and uncertainties that caused us (in my opinion) to create the whole structure of beliefs that make the film possible, exist in my mind. I wonder how people from a very different religious culture react to the film? I had a friend who saw it at the time, who was a Buddhist, and he found it extremely funny - laughed through the whole thing.

There was something very deft, I think, about the staging of the film, and the acting, that has helped it survive. There also seems to be some sort of fear of the bad or corrupted child that resonates very much for us. I wonder if this would have been so in our culture before we, as it were, "invented" childhood - that is in our culture when it saw children as somewhat imperfect little adults who needed stern discipline in order not to be evil, rather than as a sort of variant of the innocent and wise Noble Savage, which is a view (although satirically expressed) which seems to obtain at present - to some extent.
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Lightwizard
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 04:33 pm
When I first saw it and Friedkin began pulling his tricks out of his bag, I found it repelling and a little sick (the same response of many critics). I became desensitized to the shock factors in the film and began to look underneath at the core of the concept in subsequent viewings. It became quite clear to me that this battle of good against evil was taking some pretty heavy pot shots at religion, particularly the Catholic religion. Even the resolution at the end is amorphous and puzzling. Was she possessed by a demon of the devil or some metaphysical abberation of nature? Metaphors and parables abound in this film and I still am fascinating with its premise. It is, after all, revisiting familiar territory at its base -- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Friedkin managed to put his own twist on it and was never to equal his accomplishment. The performances are electrifying, to say the least, and the claustrophobic sets and cinematography add to the total effect. A much better movie when I saw the restoration and it was this revisit that change a lot of feelings I had towards the film.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 05:18 pm
Lots of differences in this version, LW?
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Tommy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 05:25 pm
As a practising Roman Catholic and raised in rural Ireland in the l940s/50s where one's religion was as deep-seated as that of the most primitive of Amazonian tribes belief in the spirits of the jungle, I was struck by the very idea of exorcism and exorcists, as being near to the belief of God and Beelzebub. My God was, through the actions of the Exorcist, protecting me from the wiles of Satan. It brought home to me how true my Religion is/was and how Satan can be defeated through the power of prayer.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 05:50 pm
Friedkin never really spells out that the final exorcism drove out what is the religious concept of the devil or a metaphysical manifestation of the Id. I never found it a film that left me uplifted at the end but questioning and puzzled. Try viewing the new version and pay close attention to the final scenes. It takes more than one time to tune into what Friedkin intended and you'll still be left with a lot of unanswered questions. Of course, it also left it open to sequels where they got tangled up with all sorts of Jungian mumbo jumbo.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 05:54 pm
Sorry, dlowan -- didn't intend to ignore you! Craven probably will agree that the Director's Cut version hasn't added much to the total effect of the film or the ideas. The restoration is what makes it worthwhile -- the prints, especially the pan-and-scan, had become faded and fuzzy which muddied up the color and contrast to the point of making the film unwatchable. This new version is like seeing it in a theater for the first time and the wide screen frame includes visual information about the rooms that you totally miss when they crop the image.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 06:23 pm
Hmmm - perhaps I must shelve my Ludditism and get a DVD player!!!
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 06:46 pm
The DVD picture and sound is truly amazing -- the sound especially is better than the sound in a theater when hooked up to an adequate digital receiver.
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Rae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Jan, 2003 08:31 pm
I am tempted to rent this on DVD tomorrow night, but I'm scared to pieces, too. This is the one and only movie that prompted me to sleep with my light on for over a year.

Maybe I'll get it tomorrow afternoon and watch it before the sun goes down.
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eoe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 11:04 am
You couldn't put a gun to my head and make me watch it again.
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Lash Goth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 11:08 am
It was on Turner last night. Watched some.

I have to admit, I'll watch slasher movies, suspense, all manner of gruesome, frightening horror...

Nothing truly scares me more than demonic possession movies and books.

I believe the phenomena happens.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 11:16 am
Twice I have attempted to watch this movie. I suppose my hard rock atheism had as much to do with my rejection of it as anything. I found the parts I saw repulsive and totally unrelated to any reality I have experienced. As a boy I went to church, although I was never 'saved', never baptised. I watched a minister (non Catholic) expel a demon from a man one time, during that phase of my life. I believed the man got these feelings over and over and only a minister could allay them; but, I did not believe for a moment that there were actual demons involved. I can't recall how much of the movie I watched the first time; the second time the first scene in which the girl was screaming all those obscenities prompted me to shut it down.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 11:42 am
Okay, Lash -- I'll bite (been watching too many Dracula movies):

When were you demonically possessed and have your been exorcised recently? Surprised Very Happy
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Lash Goth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 10:00 pm
I strongly prefer to believe this was not true.

I've read alot of interviews with exorcists and family members of possessed people. I first thought mental illness or some other anomaly had caused the affected person's behavior.

I believe in demonic possessions. Too many exorcists have begun to tell their stories. The church used to keep it quiet from embarrassment over the perception.

I guess belief in an evil supernatural force is a prerequisite.

The movie is, beliefs and fear notwithstanding, pretty hard to watch. I never saw the guy who played the younger exorcist in another role. Always revered Max Von Sydow. He has such authority as an actor.
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Rae
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jan, 2003 10:17 pm
I chickened-out folks.....I do NOT want to see that movie again.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Jan, 2003 01:03 am
Lash,

Please start a topic about possesion and give us the link. I'd love to help debunk this kind of superstition.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Jan, 2003 11:47 am
It's being debunked amoung other supernatural absurdities by Penn and Teller on the upcoming Showtime series "BULLSHIT!"

Showtime's "BULLSHIT!"
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larry richette
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Feb, 2003 12:23 am
This movie is kind of like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS....utter crap made as well as it can be possibly made. But that doesn't change the fact that it is crap.
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PDiddie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Feb, 2003 08:07 am
There were still lots of cinematic taboos in 1973 that The Exorcist exploited for marketing effect.

Besides offering a version of demonic possession (which was roundly ridiculed for its lack of authenticity) it also presented for the first time projectile vomiting, excessive rapid-fire obscenity (a behavior still reserved for sailors in the early '70s), and the raspy voice of Mercedes McCambridge dubbed into the mouth of a young girl.

I sneaked into this R-rated flick as a 14 year old.

And spent decades getting over it. Sat through most of the last 30 minutes or so with my eyes squeezed shut. Couldn't sleep soundly for months afterward. Still got a queasy kick in the gut well into my 30s every time I channel-surfed across it late at night.

Yeah, that whole Lucifer-Revelations-demons-live-among-us nexus still jacks with my head a little.

The satire that came later--Saturday Night Live's "Your-mother sews-socks-that-smell" and even Linda Blair's own bad parody, I forget its name--helped me deal with my uneasiness about the film.

But I never bothered to have the rest of my phobia psychoanalyzed.

I don't have anything to contribute relative to a thread on demonic possession, but I'd certainly read it with interest.
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