Thursday, October 09, 2008
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
“Based on a true story”, or so we are told at the beginning of the film. In 1976 German teenager, Anneliese Michel (Emily rose in the film) died following numerous attempts to cure her from “demonic possession”. The film follows Father Richard Moore’s court trial where he is accused of encouraging Emily to stop taking her psychotropic medication while performing an exorcism on the young girl, which ultimately leads to her death. The prosecution believes that Emily suffered from seizures and psychosis and brings in expert testimony from psychiatrists while the church insists that she was possessed by demons. Told in flashbacks the film chronicles the final days of Emily’s life.
I’ve been meaning to check this out over the past few years but reviews at the time, which suggested that the film was a court drama marketed as a horror movie, kept me away. It’s both. Although the story focuses on Father Moore’s negligence, a great deal of the film follows Emily’s life as she struggled with obvious psychosis. As someone in the mental health field I found the trial to be fascinating because it really drives home the point that religious people still hold onto ideas from the Bronze Age rather than moving forward in modern thought. If you had a medical condition would you go to someone who practices with an education from 2000 years ago or would you go to a modern doctor? The trial highlights how all of Emily’s strange behavior (e.g., eating bugs) is easily explained by psychosis and not the work of Lucifer. If you saw a homeless person on the street eating bugs would you believe he was possessed? Seeing the world through Emily’s eyes illustrates how frightening it is to be psychotic, with faces melting into demons and clouds forming scary images. While these sequences are scary, the story is ultimately a tragedy about a young woman dying because of religious nonsense.