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No exploration of William Friedkin would be complete without The Exorcist, 1973’s iconic horror about a little girl possessed by a demon, and so watch it we do.
We watch the theatrical cut, which Mike’s excited to see, since the only one he’s seen before is “The Version You’ve Never Seen”, the extended cut released in 2000, and he finds this version superior, with better pacing and fewer distractions. José has always had a significant problem with the crucifix scene, and we go into why, and he argues that the film exhibits a desire to shock above all else that is typical of Friedkin. Mike argues for the sympathy we feel for Father Karras and his centrality – Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin is in theory the eponymous exorcist, but is that actually the case? And we think over much more besides, including the thrill of the special effects, the disparity between how Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is used and its subsequent iconic synonimity with the film, whether the film should be clearer about the boundaries of its demon’s abilities, and ultimately, the fact that it’s so famous – or is that infamous? – that even Mike’s mum still references the projectile vomit bit.
José’s video note on the connection between The Exorcist and No News From God:
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.
As everyone knows, The Seventh Seal is a masterpiece. It’s been the subject of countless parodies (e.g. French and Saunders, Monty Python or even in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, where the boys play Battleship instead of Chess and win, thus cheating Death, an outcome possible in comedy but never in Bergman, despite his work being funnier than his reputation admits to). But in spite of their number, they have yet to diminish the film’s power. In fact The Seventh Seal‘s seriousness, its humour, its meaning and its beauty seem only to grow with repeated viewings.
I have a particular love for the moment excerpted below: Antonious Block (Max von Sydow) has returned from the Crusades. He’s seen enough horror to make him doubt the existence of God, he’s already playing a game of chess with Death and fears his life has been pointless. Death is ever present; God has yet to answer his prayers or to make himself known. He’s trying to find meaning in life and to make his life meaningful. This moment of community in the face of plague and death, the sharing with friends, an appreciation of the music, the beauty of the light, the sensuousness of the strawberries and fresh milk, the promise of the young baby; all ending with the drinking of the milk, which is in itself an act of communion but with a loving community instead of the blood of Christ, is what will spur him to a later act of generosity and goodness that will end the search to that which he sought. It’s a gorgeous moment in which people of all faiths or even adherents of therapy such as mindfulness will find in Bergman’s dramatisation of that which is holy in nature and in community a reverberating reflection of their own best beliefs.