‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ mystifies, entertains

By Diana Ashjian
September 30, 2005

The fearful gasps of audiences across the country spoke volumes of the uneasiness that viewing demonic possession and exorcism can bring.

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” which opened in theaters Sept. 9, 2005, explores the possibility of evil as a threat to the human soul and whether such a threat should be considered tempered by reality when neglect, death and even murder are concerned in a court of law.

Directed by Scott Derrickson, who also co-wrote the script with Paul Harris Boardman, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” almost wants to redefine the morality of negligent homicide using the law to do so, since the film combines a legal tale with one of horror.

This is evident when Tom Wilkinson, who plays Father Moore, performs an exorcism or “Rituale Romanum” and is accused of it when Emily Rose dies.

The audience knows that Emily Rose, played by Jennifer Carpenter, is dead from the very beginning of the movie because the opening scene shows Tom Wilkinson entering her home of shabby, flapping boards, complete with a beehive in the dead of winter. Upon entering, he finds a very confused and shocked family and a lifeless shell of what was once their daughter, lying in a despicable heap of broken teeth and bones, as well as countless bruises and bald spots.

Without even a chance for Wilkinson to take in what has happened, he is arrested for negligent homicide because there is no documentation or argument that there was ever a doctor either present for the attempted exorcism or even contacted, at first.

The rest of the film focuses on his trial with Wilkinson’s defense lawyer, played by Laura Linney, trying to prove that Emily Rose was, in fact, possessed by demonic spirits or at least not diagnosed properly when she was seeking medical help.

Both Wilkinson and Linney are shown as being haunted by evil forces throughout the film and always waking up at 3 a.m., the devil’s supposed witching hour, and unable to sleep afterward.

The opposing prosecution deemed such occurrences as nonsense and essentially snickers at the very mention of dark, black-hooded figures. Accordingly, the prosecution felt that multilingual proclamations such as, “I am the one who was with Judas” and “I am the one who was with Cain” made by either Emily Rose or Satan, who has allegedly possessed her, were ridiculous.

Linney, who sensed an inevitable defeat by the prosecution, tiresomely made her final plea to the jury, asking them to consider that it was never a fact that Emily Rose was epileptic, just like it was never considered a fact that she wasn’t possessed. She asked them, “Are we really alone in this world?”

Linney doesn’t try to make the jury believe that there is a “spirit world” that they should be aware of, but rather tries to convince them not to completely discount it.

Announced as being based on a true story, Wilkinson is finally found guilty. However, he is not sentenced to any time in prison due to a jury recommendation

The audience is left adrift in the suspense of doubt and the fear of a stolen soul with never a clear answer as to whether or not Emily Rose was actually possessed or ailed by a very extreme case of epileptic psychosis, which was the argument of the prosecution from the beginning until the end.

Altogether, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” retrospectively taught viewers that facts can’t always answer every question, and some questions will always remain a mystery.

Also, the film asks whether relying solely on scientific explanation is a sign of advancement for humanity and civilization or a complete setback when it comes to open-mindedness.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com. The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Tim Hague

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Diana Ashjian

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