Directed by Fredrik Horn Akselsen Starring Gabriele Amorth
I am a woman of faith. I believe in God, and believe that God lives in all of us. I have also grown up close to this faith, as most of my good friends were raised Catholic. And so, who better to watch The Exorcist in the 21st Century, a real life documentary about one of Europe’s only “Vatican-approved” exorcist, but yours truly? This film was intriguing, thought provoking, and startling at times, but no worries… no spewing pea soup.
This documentary starts out with Father Jose Antonio Fortea, a Spanish priest with a doctorate in demonology. He is the most famous Latin-American exorcist and travels around the world speaking about demonic possession. He seems to be a good and level-headed man, describing all that must go into an exorcism before and after the ritual, again, seems to be.
The other main “character” in this documentary is Constanza, a 40 year old woman who claims to have been plagued by demonic possession for the past 15 years. All of her problems seemed to have started when her mother died. She then became depressed, lost her job, her friends left her, etc. Her story is all about having Father Fortea perform an exorcism on her.
The film also features other priests, some exorcists and some not. My favorites of this crazy bunch of characters is famous Vatican exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth and Japanese Catholic Jesuit Priest, Father Juan Masia. Honestly, I LOVED laughing at Father Amorth… even thought I should abstain. He is a man of God after all. But he is just the strangest looking and sounding man you might ever see on film. I was under the impression that Italian always sounded disgustingly beautiful, no matter who spoke it, but Father Amorth succeeds in making his own language sound incredibly awkward. Furthermore, Father Amorth, talks about how all of the other priests see the exorcists as the “outcasts” or the “weird ones” of the priesthood. This truly piqued my interest because I had no idea that there was a divide in the Catholic faith about successful exorcisms.
Father Masia on the other hand gave a voice of skepticism to the film. He believes that just as good exists in all of us, so does evil. He believes that there really isn’t a devil, so much as evil in the world. But just as we must quantify and put a face on God, we must put a face on evil. And if you’ve researched into Christian history, you will see that Christians borrowed “the face of God” (and His whole likeness) from the Greek god, Zeus… just saying. Therefore, it is not really the Devil or his minions possessing humans, but rather humans allowing the dark to diminish the light inside of us.
As we go on further in the story, we see Constanza go through an exorcism with Father Juan Blas in a tiny shanty in Peru. He goes through the ritual that we are accustomed seeing in the movies, and Constanza does indeed start acting out as if she is possessed. You see every little bit of the exorcism in the film, but I must say that I was disappointed. Maybe I’ve been dragged to too many scary exorcism movies to be moved by this one. Or maybe I just feel some fakery on Constanza’s part. I’m not quite sure.
The film culminates in Constanza finally getting another moment alone with Father Fortea at one of his huge “liberation masses.” This is another scene that makes me really skeptical. Fakery makes me super uncomfortable, and my uncomfortable scale was up to about a 9.5 with this scene. During his “Liberation Mass,” Father Fortea will give mass, and attempt to exorcize demons out of anyone in the audience (and yes, it is more like an audience because they are in stadiums). The result is many young women falling to the ground screaming, convulsing, and talking in tongues, and perhaps, that is another branch of my skepticism. Maybe if all of the possessed in this picture weren’t women under the age of 50, I could be a little less skeptical.
Finally, Father Fortea grants a private audience with Constanza. He performs a trail exorcism on her, which the film crew was not allowed to film (boo). But is Contanza cured? You have to watch the documentary to find out… but I’m pretty sure you can guess. Overall, a well made documentary, showcasing every side of this delicate topic.
The Video looks great for a DVD. Shot in 1.78:1 Widescreen, there are some SERIOUSLY beautiful shots. Obviously, there are many shots in cathedrals and such, and there are a couple of shots of Rome that are simply breathtaking.
The Audio was good for a DVD. Captured in Dobly Digital, you could hear everything very clearly, and the filmmakers did a great job in making sure that no sounds were too muddled… as you would frequently have people talking over each other during exorcisms and such. Sadly, most of this film is not in English, and when Father Fortea speaks in English, you must concentrate hard to understand through his thick accent. Luckily, there are subtitles to help you understand.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The Packaging is a standard DVD case with telling pictures on the front and back. Very standard, clean, and informative. The photo on the front is very beguiling. Father Fortea is walking to a large cathedral amongst a crowd of people with a foreboding sky above him. In the midst of the dark clouds, one little stream of light shines, as if to say that Father Fortea is the tiny stream of light amongst the dark clouds.
The Bonus Features are quite nice, too. They feature extended interviews with the strange Father Amorth, Father Fortea, and the full exorcism performed on Constanza with Father Blas. I tried to watch the exorcism all the way through, thinking that maybe if I watched the entire thing that I would see the realness in Constanza’s condition or perhaps find something a little more startling or scary that the filmmakers didn’t catch. Sadly, I never saw either, and found myself fast forwarding through most of the ritual. Still very interesting, though.
Overall (Not an Average)
I am on shaky ground with demonic possession and exorcisms. I DO believe that we have light and dark inside of us, and that it is our job to protect the light and keep out the dark, BUT I also believe that there are forces of good (God) and forces of evil (Devil) in this world. And like most others, I find the 1973 film The Exorcist one of the most terrifying films ever made. But I found myself on the side of Japanese Priest, Father Masia. Constanza’s story did not ring true as a story of a woman who is plagued by something supernatural, but rather a woman who didn’t want to take ownership of her own depression and problems in her own life. And Father Fortea seemed like the Wizard of Oz, with a lot of flash and fame, but no heart behind it. Maybe there is demonic possession and successful exorcisms out there… but I saw none of that in this film.