• Name: The Devil and Father Amorth
• Year: 2017
• Country: USA
• Director: William Friedkin
• Main cast: Gabriele Amorth, Robert Barron, William Friedkin
• Runtime: 68 minutes
• Production company: LD Entertainment
After watching the little bit over one-hour documentary The Devil and Father Amorth (2017), one doesn’t really know for sure what just did see. Was it real (all the real something like an exorcism can be, of course)? Or is it all a fake conspired by William Friedkin to make us think, or just laugh at our faces? Is it some sort of science versus religion debate? Does this review have a place in a horror and science-fiction entertainment magazine?
The film starts with a presentation of the project by William Friedkin, linking it to his most successful film, The Exorcist (1973). Then we can see the impressions of William Peter Blatty, the writer of the original novel and its screenplay adaptation, about his thoughts and feelings towards the story, the real case it’s based on and his experience. Jeffrey Burton Russell, a popular theologist and writer of religious and demonical related books since the 1960s, is also interviewed about the subject. But the main dish here is the exorcism and the few conclusions about it.
We move to Italy where we are introduced to Father Gabriele Amorth, a real exorcist from the Vatican. He is to treat an Italian woman in her 40s called Cristina who is introduced as a possible victim of demoniacal possession. And William Friedkin is allowed to film the 9th attempt of Father Amorth to release the devil from her body. We get to see the entire exorcism, which is extremely boring and tedious, and in the Italian language. But then, at least to me, starts the most interesting part of the film. The interview with several important personalities from several fields in science and theology, from Bishop Robert Barron to doctors in neurology, psychology and psychiatry. They all express their opinions about the footage of the filmed exorcism. And although a final conclusion is impossible with the amount of knowledge we humans have about this matter, they all seem to have their personal opinion. Some of them buy the story and accept the Italian woman was possessed by an evil entity. Some others claim her familiar environment and personal believes as the cause to make her experiment the trances some people see as a possession.
I think with a documentary like The Devil and Father Amorth (2017) there are two things to take in consideration. One is how this movie is produced. Most of it is filmed with a hand camera, without a crew, only William Friedkin, his producer and the interviewees. It all is very low-fi, at moments even too low quality. It all gets the feeling this film is a mere exercise, some visual experiment not to take in big consideration in the global career of someone like Friedkin. And the other subject to deal with here is, of course, the exorcism itself. The conclusions. The debate. Personally, I don’t buy it. I am not a religious person at all, in fact I can’t understand how in the 21st Century religion still has this strong presence everywhere in the world. I won’t say the exorcism victims are faking it, I just say they just believed the story so much that they look for the supernatural to deal with their daily stress. The possessed woman starring the film comes from a little very religious town lost in the middle of Italy, how much influence does this have on her?
To get conclusions after watching this film is somehow complicated. William Friedkin himself doesn’t take any of his own. And, in fact, I think he asks the right questions to his interviewees, getting different points of view from different fields and specialties. But overall, the feeling after watching the feature is pretty cold. I don’t know if it will change anyone’s point of view or believes, but it sure didn’t do that to me. It neither brings big doses of knowledge like many other documentaries do. It only shows a piece of a story of some deep believer people fearing of a devil that probably went too far in their faith. But, again William Friedkin was the responsible of that masterpiece called The Exorcist (1973), right? If he has something to say about the subject, even almost 50 years after the release of the classic film, at least it’s worth to give it a chance. But only if you like the subject or are a fan of Friedkin, otherwise I think this documentary can be a very dull watch.
IMDB URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6883152
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