Sunday, September 25, 2005

emily rose

As of today, The Exorcism of Emily Rose has grossed (literally!) $57,144,000 at the box office in the US. I guess good exorcisms are like really cold beer... hard to resist.

The reviews have gone in two pretty disparate directions. Some discard it because it is not a horror film in the traditional sense (The Grudge, Saw, The Ring, etc...). As if the only way to approach the subject of exorcism in a movie were to scare people...

Others lavish praise on the movie because it portrays an exorcism 'as it really occurs'.

This humble exorcist found much to praise in Emiy Rose. The acting is credible. Even the six demons avoid over-the-top theatrics when they have poor Emily in the throes of posession. The special effects are minimal and clearly not designed to have sensitive moviegoers hurling their Twizzlers in the aisle. The experience of the posession itself is related through Emily's eyes, what she sees, hears and feels and, ultimately, how she explains it to herself.

Although the faith/science conflict is one of the themes at the fore, neither the Church nor the priest (a suitably pious Tom Wilkinson) are, well, demonized. Laura Linney's character is sufficiently nuanced so as not to be overly predictable.

The framing of the narration of Emily's plight in the courtroom drama that ensued after her death is particularly effective and allows for the priest's case to be made sympathetically. But perhaps best of all, the audience is really the jury and must draw its own conclusions from the trial.

On the downside, there is some gimmickry unbecoming of self-respecting demons: the 3:00 am starting time of their activities, their choice of Halloween as the best day for business, etc. As if the evil ones were on some sort of schedule...

But the only thing I really didn't like was the reason for the posession, as given in Emily's mystical rapture. If I understood this thing correctly, Emily was surrendered to the powers of evil and ultimately lost her life: to prove to the world that the devil exists?

I find that reasoning truly absurd, even in the context of a story that, in itself, overflows the boundries of logic. How could something unverifiable by its very nature possibly be proof of something else? There is no 'proof' of demonic posession, so how could a posession be 'proof' of the devil's existence?

Even supposing that Emily were posessed, what could it prove? Does the vision of the three children of Fatima 'prove' the existence of the Virgin Mary? Does my mother's devotion to her guardian angel legitimate any speculation as to said angel's nature? Subjective (personal) religious experiences are not necessarily 'false' or 'delusionary', but they are never 'proof' of anything.

Anyway, it would seem to me that God has enough trouble convincing people of His existence without worrying about the devil's credibility rating. And I'm sure - if He were concerned about the devil getting enough attention - He could find a more efficient way of making His point than putting Satan in charge of Emily Rose's extreme make-over.

See and enjoy Emily Rose, as I did. Nothing ruins a good movie like trying to tie up all the loose ends.