The Exorcism of Emily Rose found its way into my Sony DVD player. The movie was done well. It was much better than most Hollywood “possession” movies, including the standard-setting “The Exorcist”. My 119 minute living room experience of Emily Rose was seriously accentuated by a 1000 Watt 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS Pioneer Receiver and Speaker System. This particular combination of ancient faith and modern technology had the tendency to scare the hell out of me on occasion. Demon possession in surround sound will force the staunchest skeptic toward a light switch. At any rate, the plot of the movie was not primarily focused upon the possession itself, but rather on the trail that followed Emily’s death. The movie basically turned out to be a cinematic debate between proponents of faith and reason. It was surprisingly well done.
The movie might be considered well done as its genre’s overarching and horror-laden catalogue is considered, but it was still more Hollywood than reality. I’ve been scouring the Internet looking for the real Emily Rose. She’s there, but her real name is Anneliese Michel. Anneliese Michel was a German woman born on September 21, 1952 in Leiblfing, Bavaria. She died on July 1, 1976, as a result of forced genuflection (400-600 per day), pneumonia, and malnutrition (she weighed 68 lbs at the time of death). In 1968, Anneliese began experiencing serious and uncontrollable bodily convulsions. She was diagnosed with “Grand Mal” epilepsy by a neurologist. Depression followed her diagnosis.
Reports of very odd behavior increase at this point. Anneliese Michel supposedly abandoned her bed to sleep on the stone floor; she ate spiders, flies, and coal; she committed acts of self-mutilation; and even began drinking her own urine. It’s hard to say if these things actually occurred, or if the defendants exaggerated events for their own legal reasons. Psychiatrists who testified also raised the question of “Doctrinaire Induction.” Doctrinaire Induction is a term which points to the priests as the providers of the contents of Anneliese Michel’s psychotic behaviors. It is also a well known fact that prior to these events William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” (1974) was released in Germany and resulted in a nation wide preoccupation with the paranormal. Exactly how much this fact informed the events surrounding Anneliese Michel is unclear.
The Bishop of Wurzburg, Josef Stangl, commissioned Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt to perform the exorcism on Anneliese. These began in 1975, September. Anneliese would be dead nine months later.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose begins at the trial resulting from Emily’s death. The debate between reason (the prosecution) and faith (the defense) rages throughout the main body of the film. Scientific and medical interpretations are presented throughout the trial; as are faith and religious defenses. A critical viewer of the film will begin to realize, as the film concludes, that a final decision regarding the reason vs. faith debate has been left totally up to him/her to decide. This is the most intriguing aspect of the film. It leaves one seriously thinking. A first for this particular genre.
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