THE DEVIL WITHIN HER?
REQUIEM ★★★★ Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid. Starring Sandra Hüller, Burghart Klaußne Club, IFI, Dublin, 89 min
THE true events that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a turgid 2005 thriller with a perceptible Christian agenda, are recounted with considerably greater sobriety in this chilling, uncomfortably well-acted film from the promising young director HansChristian Schmid.
In 1976 a young epileptic woman, the daughter of devout Catholics, died after undergoing weeks of exorcism in a rural German town. The unfortunate girl had earlier defied the commands of her terrifying mother and taken up a place in university, where, unsettled by pressures of work and new social freedoms, she suffered an apparent nervous breakdown.
Requiem sees the girl, here called Michaela, falling under the control of well-meaning priests, who believe the voices within her head to be those of devils. Already depleted by (we guess) anorexia, Michaela is subjected to a harrowing ordeal of denial and rebuke. The results are harrowing to contemplate.
Admirably disciplined in its intentions, Requiem is almost entirely taken up with the prelude to Michaela’s exorcism. Painting in browner brown than any brown used in any previous recreation of the dun 1970s, Schmid creates a cold, loveless world whose partial consolations include lengthy excerpts from Deep Purple’s sombre epic Anthem. At the core of the film we find amagnificently committed central performance from Sandra Hüller, whose taut face admits poignant intimations of doom into Michaela’s all-too-rare adventures in optimism.
Requiem is, depending upon your own religious inclinations, either admirably neutral in its attitude to the theoretical possession or skewed toward a “rationalist” perspective. There are, certainly, reasonable explanations for all the traumas Michaela undergoes, and the contribution of the clergy will seem unproductive (at best) to anybody with even a sliver of understanding about mental illness. Either way, itmakes for grimly compelling viewing.
Brain storm: Sandra Hüller as the possibly possessed student