Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
A young girl (Hüller), with a history of epilepsy and a devoutly religious family, goes to college and proceeds to have visions of demonic forms and hellish voices. Convinced she is possessed and spiralling into madness, she confides in a believing priest who halps guide her through her own personal darkness.
Is it good movie?
What is it about German horror flicks that seriously whack my ass and make me happy? Or French ones for that matter? Or the Spanish? Seriously these guys have their shit together, and Requiem is no exception. This film has a bleak and hopelesslt dreadful atmosphere that is a fine back drop for the tortured performance of actress Sandra Hüller as young Michaela, as she descends into her own mental hell and eventually her death with the help of the good old Christian Church.
Based on the real life 1976 exorcism case of Anneliese Michel in Germany, which was also the basis for the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem tells the story of a young girl who is seemingly plagued by demons of the mind, but who is ultimately starved and tortured to death because some well-meaning religious duders think she is possessed by real demons. The priests involved, as well as the girl's family, were convicted and imprisoned, and the church has even come out in recent years and declared there was no possession involved. The true story is a tragic and horrific one, and it is portrayed in this film in muted and subtle tones, leaning more towards the use of atmosphere and suggestion than the more heavy handed American retelling. The film is both gorgeous and creepy, and well shot from some very interesting perspectives that mirror the different perspectives and opinions that the film asks you to consider.
At the core of the story is the debate between spirituality and science over mental health issues, and the backwards nature of religion when it comes to dealing with some issues such as schizophrenia and epilepsy in rural communities. Also at the heart here is the story of a young woman's pain, and the failure of her faith to save her. It's a poignant and quite haunting picture, supported by a plausible cast and portraying a compelling and tragic real life tale that wll give anyone the creepies. The film definately leaves the watcher with even more questions, making us wonder if the demons were in poor Michaela's head or in her body, and it never really falls heavilly on either side of the fence. We are left to make out own interpretations of the story by the end, which is a refreshing change from the usual literal exposition bashing that most western religious-themed movies do.
Very good work, and a finely creepy possession movie that shows just how tragic either mental illness or demonic houseguests can be.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: German (Dolby Digital 5.1) and subtitles in English and Spanish.
This is a movie only release, but the inclusion of a documentary on the real life case would have been sweet.
Eerie and beautiful, frightening and filled with heavy subject matter, this retelling of a now famous tale is a top notch effort from director Schmid and a fine cast (I think Sandra Hüller just may be one to watch out for, she has something that I couldn't put my fingers on when watching her). If you love possession tales, or tragic coming of age stories, check this one out. Also it provides a more subtle and haunting version of the story than American versions such as Emily Rose (with the exception of Jennifer Carpenter in that film, because she owned every frame of that one). A fine release from IFC films, and I hope to see more international genre films from them, because this one was nicely done.