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REQUIEM

From Germany, a strikingly filmed fact-based account of possible demonic possession, driven by a superb performance by newcomer Sandra Hiller. Yet regardless of those things REQUIEM just never quite comes alive.

The Package
     The basis of this 2005 film was an actual 1976 case of a Bavarian woman allegedly possessed by demons who died after being subjected to a dozen or so exorcisms. REQUIEM followed the previous year’s deadening EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, which was also factually inspired, and told essentially the same story.
     The producer-director Hans-Christian Schmid is best known for another fact-based film, 1998’s popular computer hacking thriller 23. See it instead!

The Story
     Michaela is a young woman living in a small German town with her highly religious parents. She has a history of epilepsy, which doesn’t go away once she heads off to college. In fact Michaela’s fits only increase, and culminate in a full-blown nervous breakdown. Unwilling to tell her parents about the attacks, Michaela contacts a priest. The latter is initially dismissive of her claims, advising her to see a psychiatrist. Michaela doesn’t take his advice and her life continues to deteriorate, notably during a visit home in which she has a huge fight with her parents.
     Michaela becomes convinced she’s demonically possessed, and her actions, including a physical altercation she has with her best friend and the senseless destruction of her parents’ things, would seem to confirm this. Eventually two priests, including the one Michaela initially contacted, are called in to drive out the demons--if they even exist!

The Direction
     In the manner of many modern European dramas, REQUIEM is presented in resolutely stark and direct fashion via jittery (and often distracting) handheld camerawork. Other noteworthy quirks include a noticeable lack of music and special effects. Such things result in a powerfully understated sense of realism and immediacy lacking in most horror films. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that this film is in any way better than its fellows!
     The problem is with the narrative, which adds very little to the demonic possession subgenre that wasn’t already covered by THE EXORCIST, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE and countless other films. It hits all the expected beats, from the early scenes of the heroine undergoing pointless medical treatments to the climactic exorcism. The only unique narrative elements this film really has to offer are a couple lengthy conversations about the nature of faith and a deliberately ambiguous treatment of the (allegedly) supernatural phenomena. Neither element is enough to make this film worth your while.
     One area, at least, in which REQUIEM excels is the lead performance of Sandra Huller. This was only her second film appearance, yet Huller commands the screen with the unshowy skill of someone far more experienced, and even in the most potentially overwrought and melodramatic moments is never less than fully convincing. Her efforts are deserving of a better movie.

 
Vital Statistics

REQUIEM
23|5 Film Production/IFC First Take

Director: Hans-Christian Schmid
Producer: Hans-Christian Schmid
Screenplay: Berd Lange
Cinematography: Bogumil Godfrejow
Editing: Bernd Schlegel, Hansjorg Weissbrich
Cast: Sandra Huller, Burghard Klaussner, Imogen Kogge, Anna Blomeier, Nicholas Reinke, Jans Herzer, Walter Schmidinger, Friederike Adolph, Irene Kugler, Johann Adam Oest, Eva Lobau
 

     

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