The Exorcist is one of those films (not just in the horror genre) that has gone into history as one of the most classic and important films ever made. It terrified a generation and brought the devil to the front of everyone’s minds as a threat and something to fear. It contributed to the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and influenced hundreds of possession films that followed in its footsteps. There is no doubt that this film is important but what was it like to film it? We see behind the scenes stills and interviews with the actors but Alexandre O. Philippe sits down with William Friedkin to get an in-depth look at what brought him to make movies, what drew him to this story, and some of the most important decisions that made The Exorcist what it is thanks to a documentary called LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST.
I have watched a lot of documentaries on the making of this movie and the little factoids of things that happened on the shoot, but never once have I really heard from Friedkin on his choices and I was glad to see someone take up the baton to do that. This film is nearly two hours long and is one of the most in-depth film documentaries I have ever watched. William Friedkin is a very dynamic speaker with a strong appreciation for art and music and the importance of how that love connects to his movies. Film fact lovers need not fret because there is plenty of information that is offered. One of my favorites from the beginning in which Friedkin talks about filming the intro of the movie in Iraq.
During his visit, there was a German archaeologist doing a dig in the desert with Iraqi workers. Friedkin asked if they could film the dig with actor Max von Sydow as Father Merrin walking through the dig. The dig and all of the artifacts recovered (with the exception of the ones pertaining to the film) were real as that site rested on an ancient sacked city. As an archaeology and anthropology nerd, that was a really interesting fact that made me literally stop the video and tell someone about. The bazaar scene and as Father Merrin sat at a table, all of that were real people just living their lives and it added such a level of realism.
LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST goes in-depth about maintaining control over the production to keep the final results within the image he saw in his head that the movie should be. He talks of his influences from paintings that affected his lighting choices and his history in dramatic radio which influenced his perspective on sounds in the film. We ride along for the adventure that was finding the right music for the film and Friedkin’s perspective on demons and hell while directing the movie.
This film delves into the drama that was the casting of Father Karras and the documentary style that the movie was shot in. There was so much technical aspect included in this documentary and yet there was not a boring moment in it strictly because of how much Friedkin loves the work. You can see a sparkle in his eye as he talks of his art and music inspirations and the frustration he had with the ending moments of the film. Apparently, there was a big disagreement in how Father Karras was meant to die and it will leave you scratching your head and wondering if you understand it at all.
If you love The Exorcist or if you have a love for the science of filming and producing, then LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST is 100% worth the watch. Even for those who don’t have a love for what goes on behind the scenes will appreciate this documentary and the intensity with which Friedkin talks of creating this film and the influences that helped breathe it into being. Somehow Alexandre O. Philippe can make watching a man in a chair one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen in a long time. You can watch LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST on Shudder starting November 19th.