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
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!
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
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 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.
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