The Exorcist director William Friedkin films 'terrifying' real-life exorcism in new documentary

FP Staff

Apr 23, 2018 15:14:01 IST

William Friedkin, director of the 1973 classic film The Exorcist, is dealing with the devil again but do not expect more twisting heads, levitating beds or spurts of green vomit.

That was fiction. This time, it is the real thing with no special effects but it is nonetheless harrowing.

The Exorcist director William Friedkin films terrifying real-life exorcism in new documentary

William Friedkin (L) and Gabriele Amorth

“At the time I made the film The Exorcist, I had never seen an exorcism,” Friedkin told The Atlantic. “More than 40 years later, I witnessed the one you are about to see.”

Friedkin has made an hour-long documentary called The Devil and Father Amorth about perhaps the world’s most famous exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, an Italian priest who died in 2016 at the age of 91.

Though he expects people to be sceptical, the 83-year-old director does not deem himself to be a sceptic.

Friedkin struck up a friendship with Amorth, a disarmingly jovial man despite his serious work. On 1 May, 2016, about four months before Amorth died, he allowed Friedkin to watch an exorcism of a 46-year-old Italian woman named Cristina, on condition that he did it without a crew, used only a small camera and did not interfere with the rite. It takes up the bulk of the documentary, which also includes interviews with psychologists.

A still from The Devil and Father Amorth

A still from The Devil and Father Amorth

Though Cristina seemed like any other judicious, level-headed architect to Friedkin, "she completely unraveled" during the exorcism. The director, in an interview with NPR, says, "She spoke in a voice that was completely different from her own. She had what I would say was an unnatural amount of strength for a woman of her size and age. And her entire personality had altered."

The footage shows the woman being held down by Amorth’s assistants. She writhes and shouts in a raspy voice that is not hers. Amorth, who had a cult-like following in Italy, performs the rite in Latin and Italian as others, known as “auxiliary exorcists,” give him prayerful support in the room.

"I was scared, seriously scared. I was two feet away from them ... And it was terrifying. Gradually my fear turned into empathy for her. She was in seemingly unnatural and total pain," Friedkin said.

The Exorcist was based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same title. A work of fiction, it was inspired by a newspaper article Blatty had read when he was a student at Georgetown University in Washington.

In the 1973 movie, Linda Blair plays a 12-year-old girl who is possessed, and some of the contortions of her face and body have become the stuff of cinematic history.

All images from Twitter.

With inputs from Reuters

Updated Date: Apr 23, 2018 16:05:59 IST