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Requiem Reviews

Loosely based on the same events that inspired THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (2004), documentary filmmaker Hans-Christian Schmid's somber, deeply disquieting fiction feature is a very different affair. There are no actual demons in Schmid's film, set in Germany in the 1970s, only the psychological devils that plague the film's troubled young heroine. It's been six months since 20-year-old aspiring teacher Michaela Klingler (Sandra Huller) last suffered a seizure, and she's eager to continue her interrupted education. Through a long process of diagnosis by exclusion, Michaela's doctors finally concluded that she suffered a form of epilepsy, and prescription drugs seem to keep the seizures at bay. Michaela's meek but encouraging father (Burghart Klaussner) tacitly supports her decision to go away to school, but her stern and deeply devout mother (Imogen Kogge) is convinced it will end in another breakdown and further shame for the family. Michaela nonetheless heads off to the university at Tubingen where, away from her mother's fanaticism, she begins to flourish: She makes a best friend in Hanna (Anna Blomeier), an old high-school acquaintance, and catches the eye of handsome chemistry student Stefan (Nicholas Reinke). But Michaela's problems are never far below the surface, particularly when she's reunited with her mother for a weekend pilgrimage to a shrine devoted to St Catherine of Siena, who suffered visions of Hell and died in 1380, aged 33. Michaela awakens in the middle of night to find she can no longer touch the rosary her mother had just given her, then collapses. These symptoms recede as soon as Michaela returns to school, but reappear as academic pressure mounts. Michaela begins to identify obsessively with the young St Catherine, but when she tells her parish priest (Walter Schmidinger) she's seeing demonic faces and hearing voices accusing her of being a "filthy slut," he's appalled by the suggestion that she's demonically possessed. Young Vicar Borchert (Jens Harzer), however, is far more open to Michaela's theory — one her mother might prefer to mental illness — and recommends the only course of action he sees fit: exorcism. EMILY ROSE focused on the court case against the exorcist held responsible for the young woman's death, and despite the Hollywood hokum, that film tried to intelligently explore the role faith should be allowed to play in the legal system. This more realistic telling takes a riskier but more satisfying perspective, exploring the degree to which faith and scripture should determine how we understand ourselves. Bogumil Godfrejow's raw cinematography and Huller's poignant, close-to-the-bone performance transform what might have been a morbid curiosity into an entirely enthralling, quietly terrifying experience.