Requiem (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2006)

To even say this is cliché, but regardless, a major strength of Requiem is how some dynamic good vs. evil, religion vs. science argument isn’t thrown in your face, but lingers in the background; Michaela’s succumbing to epilepsy and how her resentful and ignorant mother and an overly-zealous priest convince her fragile mind that exorcism is the only answer, certainly has that science vs. religion argument embedded in the very core of its story, but is presented in a way that it just is what it is –  a girl with epilepsy and possibly a deeper mental illness, and how the differing opinions of her family, clergy, boyfriend, and best friend both alleviate and exacerbate that condition.  You’re never knocked over the head with the filmmakers’ grand philosophical treatise, you’re simply left to watch Michaela’s slow descent into mental illness (or, according to some, possession) in a minimal and realistic depiction, to the point where even the late-film exorcism just feels like the next logical step in how a rural-suburban, god-fearing family would deal with an issue such as this, and left to make your own judgment.  In fact, I saw this most as a meditation on how one psychologically deals with the physical or mental malady of a loved one, or of oneself.  As Michaela’s loving but enabling father hides his daughter’s diagnoses from his overbearing wife so that Michaela can fulfill her dream of going to school, that priest practically salivates at the chance to use Michaela to make his bones as an exorcist, and her more secular friend tries to pull her back from the jaws of religious fanaticism, it’s interesting to see how Michaela herself just tries to live her own life, succumbing to the pressure of a research paper, and finally lets all the divergent opinions of those around her influence her decision on whether it’s a brain defect or a demon afflicting her.  Bad things just happen to good people, and Michaela’s eventual breakdown, convincing herself of the extraordinary circumstances of her affliction, speak of how any of us just want an explanation for everything, to justify random bad luck with the idea that it just had to happen for a reason.  And all this is presented behind the scenes, in a straightforward, chronologically linear, objective account, where we can only sit there and helplessly observe, lament, and finally stew when that pre-credits blurb comes up telling us what became of the real-life inspiration for Michaela.


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