Requiem [subtitled]

Requiem

Requiem is a German film, apparently loosely based on a real case, about an epileptic college freshman who comes to believe she is possessed by demons.

I found it to be slow-moving, a bit dull most of the way. The plight of the girl at the center of the story is somewhat interesting to watch play out, and the performance of the actress playing that part seems quite good, but I never got more than a little into the movie as a whole.

One of my pet peeves about movies is how they nearly always assume the reality of allegedly supernatural phenomena. That is, if there’s a “psychic” in a movie, the psychic’s predictions come true. If UFOs are in the movie, invariably they are actual spaceships from outer space. If the characters pull out a Ouija board, you know it’s going to provide some kind of accurate and relevant information. If a character insists they saw a ghost or encountered a vampire or some other such entity, and other characters pooh pooh it, the first character always turns out to be right. And of course any supernatural religious claims in a movie are verified by later events.

It’s not that every movie has supernatural elements, just that if they’re present, they’re sure to be presented as legitimate. One, because most people believe in such stuff after all, so it’s a crowd pleaser. And two, because there typically would be no dramatic point in having non-legitimate psychic phenomena. How would it move the plot along to have a “psychic” make predictions that don’t in fact match up with anything that happens later in the movie?

So I will say it’s to this movie’s credit that it doesn’t include mysterious elements that supposedly could only be explained by a supernatural hypothesis such as that the girl is really possessed. There’s no head-spinning or anything like that.

She is an epileptic, and she’s taking drugs (various medications she takes for the epilepsy but has to keep changing because they don’t fully work). She’s also from a very fantasy-prone social and familial background where people tend to take religion and superstition literally. So given all that, when she acts crazy, by far the most justified conclusion to draw is that it is because her brain/mind is really messed up.

Not that it’s impossible she’s really possessed by demons (or is acting as a result of something implanted in her by space aliens, or whatever you prefer), because that’s the kind of negative it’s difficult or impossible to prove, but the point is the movie doesn’t push you in that direction. Pretty clearly she’s just seriously mentally ill.

Her friends and one of the local priests see she needs psychiatric help, while the other of the local priests believes she needs to be exorcised. The family is pulled in both directions, but at least is open to the notion that she is possessed and needs an exorcism. She herself is convinced it’s demon possession and takes it as an insult that anyone would suggest she go to a psychiatrist.

So that pretty much settles what kind of “help” she ends up accepting.

But most of the movie until that determination is made wasn’t very interesting to me. You’re shown little bits and pieces of information so you gradually get a sense of what’s happening with her and how it’s getting worse, but there’s just not a whole lot going on.

Then after an hour or more, there are a little more vivid depictions of her attacks. It never remotely approaches The Exorcist or anything like that, but at least the action picks up. And we see that she’s apparently going to stick to the superstition path rather than the psychiatric path for now to deal with it.

But then that’s it. The movie just stops, and before the credits there is a brief message about what happens after that. Kind of like if Rocky ended with Rocky entering the ring to fight Apollo Creed, and then instead of the fight, we got a message on the screen saying “Rocky lost a decision to Creed, but did go the distance. Later he won the heavyweight title.” OK, that’s great. But don’t you think maybe you should show us that rather than tell us that?

There are times I can understand a movie focusing on the lead-up rather than the main event. That can be a valid artistic decision. But in this case, it didn’t make sense to me. The lead-up is almost certainly not as interesting for a visual medium as the exorcisms and what results from them.

So Requiem is just OK most of the way, and then has a dud ending.

[Reading some more about this film later, it sounds like the actual case really would have been quite interesting to follow through to the end. The case also inspired an American film—The Exorcism of Emily Rose—which, from what I read, did focus on the more dramatic stuff that this movie stopped short of, though reportedly it is the far more fictionalized of the two films, and a pretty crappy one.]

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