Remembering William Friedkin: The Exorcist
Gareth Higgins on William Friedkin and THE EXORCIST
The director William Friedkin (above) died yesterday, so I’m thinking about The Exorcist, a movie about despair that inspires hope, a movie about horror that calls forth love, a movie about death that helps me live. The Exorcist respects spirituality and wounded faith, and its portrayal of evil does not overshadow its belief in love. Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty’s film is worthy of its subject.
I was a teenager the first time I saw it, and I hid behind the sofa. This turned out to be more frightening, as the imagination allows for worse than what’s on screen. By my next viewing, I was immersed in a Christian subculture which tended to see demons behind every sofa, so the experience of Regan, the girl who floats, screams and vomits and whose head spins round, seemed half-plausible. The third time was alongside Paul Schrader’s prequel Dominion; Schrader is a former Dutch Calvinist and co-scripter of The Last Temptation of Christ, so unsurprisingly it’s one of the more thoughtful cinematic treatments of religion. It also deepened my appreciation of Blatty’s conservative Catholic approach: he really did believe that a little girl could be overcome by the devil, but there is greater power in the name of Jesus.
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