A stranger than fiction look into the lives of exorcists, the documentary The Exorcist in the 21st Century creates a story that informs, debates and examines one of the oldest challenges of the Catholic Religion. Set in today’s world of naysayers and non believers, the DVD reveals the Roman Catholic Church’s complex stand on this biblical art of exorcism healing. The bonus features on the disc includes an actual Exorcist that was performed in Peru.
Under the direction of Fredrik Horn Akselsen the true account of a young woman possessed by a demon serves as the focal point as he takes his viewers on a journey into the depths of the religious healing art of exorcism. During the hour plus we are brought into this rite passed down from the time of Jesus Christ to the Catholic order. The film centers on exorcist Father Jose Antonio Fortea of Spain a Vatican-approved Catholic priest who performs exorcisms in his diocese and travels the world bringing awareness to his work.
While Akselsen spools out his documentary evidence, we are introduced to Constanza a Peruvian woman who claims to be under the spell of a demon. Along with her male friend she travels to dioceses where exorcisms are performed by a Bishop appointed priest who has been trained in the art. Akselsen inserts not only the interviews he received from exorcist Fortea, but with others who have performed them including the main Exorcist of Rome Fr. Gabrielle Amorth. Amorth has been doing exorcisms for over 25 years during which he performed over 70,000 rituals.
In order to show the whole picture Akselsen also takes viewers to Catholic priests that do not believe in exorcism and consider the process a psychological technique that comforts those who have demonized themselves with wrong doing. While there seems to be some validity in the debate, those highest in the exorcism ritual refute the naysayers. Fortea even agrees with the 1973 Hollywood made film The Exorcist. He feels that the technique used in the film has validity and is thankful for the film maker because it brings light to his practice.
Bishop Juan Enesto Blas in Valle Grande, a small town on the outskirts of Lima, Peru makes a decision to give Constanza a private communion of liberation and an exorcism based on a report by her Psychiatrist Dr. Guillermo Diaz Liano. Although we only see a short part of the ritual, the full exorcism can be seen as one of the special features included in the DVD. The event is very powerful, unnerving and intimidating showing the reactions from both the patient and the exorcist as Bishop Juan Enesto Blas goes through each of the steps.
Akselsen keeps his camera rolling in several countries around the world including Norway, Israel, Spain, Italy, Peru, United States, Colombia and Japan. His interviews are face to face with exorcists, priests, theologians and doctors. Included in the special features are extended interviews with both Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea and Rome’s Fr. Gabrielle Amorth. The interviews ask common questions that most people pose and are answered openly and convincingly.
The video quality is extremely good in the HD format using widescreen 1.78:1 16×9 for HD televisions. The documentary filming is sharp and clear with excellent color. The crowd shots are in focus all the way to the end of the arenas and the faces of the audiences are dramatically clear in their reactions. Even the darker scenes during the exorcism taking place in the small dimly lit chapel are clear without distortion.
The sound quality using the Dolby Digital 5.1 played on my HD television is extremely good. Crowd reactions of Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea’s visit to Lima, Peru are striking and the attendees voices can be heard from the sides and back using my surround system. The guttural sounds during the exorcism are sometimes chilling and disturbing.
The only downside I found in the presentation is the unknowing if any of the scenes were staged or altered to give a greater emphasis on the exorcism techniques and results. While Constanza surly looked psychotic, the treatment could not reflect the desired results that may or may not be what the exorcist hopes for. While Psychiatrist Dr. Guillermo Diaz Liano approved the exorcism, the film never shows his reaction to the treatment after it is performed.
In all however, I found the film to be very interesting, properly investigated and openly honest. The film is shown in the native languages of Spanish, Norwegian and Italian with English Subtitles. The Exorcist in the 21st Century has not been rated by the MPAA but does contain disturbing scenes and some language.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An interesting openly frank film on a rather guarded subject.[rating=4]
Specifications and additional film information:
- Non Acting Cast: José Antonio Fortea, Gabriele Amorth, Bernt Eidsvik
- Directed by: Fredrik Horn Akselsen
- MPAA Rating: Unrated, contains disturbing material, language
- Genre: Documentary, Foreign
- Running Time: 1 hr 20 min
- Street Date: May 7, 2013
- Original Theatrical Release: April 1, 2012 (Norway)
- Language: Several with English Subtitles
- Format: DVD
- Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Video: Widescreen 1.78:1 16×9 Televisions
- Subtitles: English
- Number of Discs: 1 Disc