Dir: Hans-Christian Schmid.Ger. 2005. 92mins.
The thinking man's The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Requiem offers a deliberatelyunderstated take on the real-life events which inspired that commerciallysuccessful courtroom horror yarn.
Director Schmidand scriptwriter Lange are only marginally interested in the hoary theme of Emily Rose - the tussle between religiousfaith and scientific reason. Instead, they weave a dourly compelling characterstudy out of the 1970s Klingenberg case, in which ayoung German epileptic girl died at the end of an exhausting series ofexorcisms, officially sanctioned by a Catholic bishop.
More strong, eccentricmartyr than weak and passive victim, the film's complex heroine comes to lifethanks to an electrifying feature debut performance by young theatre actressSandra Hueller, who lifted a deserved Silver Bear forBest Actress at the Berlin Film Festival.
EFM sales action was brisk,and Requiem will benefit, rather thansuffer, from its release after Scott Derrickson'sHollywood version.
A floppy-haired muppet of a girl living in a rural town somewhere indeepest Catholic Germany, Michaela (Hueller) wins aplace to read pedagogy at the University of Tubingen.Her ice-cold mother (Kogge), who is always ready witha bitter word and a scathing comment, opposes the move because of herdaughter's medical problems, soon revealed to be a form of epilepsy. ButMichaela is supported by her weak, tremulously affectionate father (Klaussner).
At university she getsherself a best friend (Blomeier) and a boyfriend (Weiser), but she also has a recurrence of the fits thathave already led to her skipping a year of school. This time, though, theytwine with Michaela's religious faith, as she finds herself unable to pray,count her rosary beads, or touch the cross.
The action is set in a drab,brown-and-green version of the early 1970s that comes through mostly in thehaircuts, clothes and music of the university scenes, and then only as adistant provincial echo. Though the script's one-way journey towards illnessand obsession draws a rather uneventful straight line, it is leavened by thequirky unpredictability of Michaela's character.
As unorthodox as she ispious, this proto-saint goes freshwater swimming in her underwear, thrashesabout to progressive rock music and enjoys sex with her permanently bemusedboyfriend.
Michaela's descent into anemaciated half-life of visions and terrors is rendered with astonishingveracity by Hueller, with only minimal contributions from the make-updepartment.
Like Bresson'sJoan Of Arc, Michaela is both a remarkable life-forceand an active player in her own martyrdom. Though an exorcism taster is thrownin, the film ends, with impeccable instinct, at the moment when Michaelarealises her path is mapped out, well before the Beelzebub and holy waterroutine can begin in earnest.
Bavaria Film International
Christian M Goldbeck