Tags: Anneliese Michel, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Exorcist, Hans Weingartner, Production Design, Requiem, Scott Derrickson
[This entry is part of Raccoon’s Production Design Blog-A-Thon, which began on May 25 and runs through May 25th. Please consider joining us with your own post on the topic.]
Exorcisms continue to fascinate our enlightened age. Even though in real life, we have replaced our demons by terrorists, immigrants or feminists – whatever lends itself to project ‘otherness’ on it -, it seems as if many people enjoy the sight of gooey, exploding bodies of the kind we were able to witness in the 1973 classic The Exorcist.
2005 and 2006 saw the release of two films dedicated to the same tragic case of contemporary exorcism: In 1976 in Bavaria, Anneliese Michel died from hunger, following a months longs exorcism that was performed on her by two catholic priest, at the request and with the consent of her family.* Scott Derrickson’s the The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I haven’t seen, but have read up upon and then wasn’t keen to watch) is said to be classic Hollywood fare, where the question whether the female lead character is indeed obsessed or just mentally ill is never raised – the demons that allegedly possessed her are even allowed to find incarnation as coherent characters.
Hans-Christian Schmid’s Requiem, by comparison, is a quiet little film that, almost like a documentary, traces the story of Michaela Klinger (this film’s Anneliese Michel) and her attempts to find a place for herself in life when she leaves home for the first time to study theology, and how the mental illness she’s been battling catches up with her, ruining her frail friendships and, with much much aid from her pious family, eventually her health and ends her life.
Requiem does not need any goo or artificial bodily fluids: The entire film is tinted with the patina that we associate with 1970s’ photographs – probably because this is indeed the colour of these photographs, or probably because our media experience has taught us to map aesthetics and memory that way. Production designer Christian M. Goldbeck, who also collaborated with Schmid on Lichter/Distant lights and with Hans Weingartner on the ‘smash hit’ Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei/The Edukators, sets the scene for a suffocating trip into the 1970s where the brownish colour of wall-to-wall carpeting seems to smother all of Michaela’s hopes and ambitions.
The only lights that ever seem to enter her world are the pilgrim’s offertory candles – set against the religious backdrop of her family, these lights are no beacon of hope. The brown colours and faded wallpapers of her family home are replaced only by the cork pin-board and fabric wallpaper of a little room in a student dormitory – her plans to escape, as soon becomes manifest, are futile.
The breakfast room of a cheap hotel, where the family stops on one of their pilgrimages (which you can see in this trailer below at minute 1:13-1:16) is the place where her hopes are finally shattered – trapped between cumbersome furniture, Michaela has another psychotic episode; this happening exactly on a pilgrimage, and under they eyes of convinced catholics, seals her doom.
The film hardly ever switches to a brighter colour pattern – even in Michaela’s brief phase of happiness, where she goes to bars and falls in love to the tunes of 1970s’ psychedelic rock, the colours remain pasty, liveless, washed-out. Once she is brought back home, the musty brownish tapestry and furnitures reappear, lock her inside, until her death. ‘Requiem’, instead of going down the splatter path, shows the real horrors of traditional family structures in a part of Bavaria where enlightenment, sexual liberation or the opening of mental wards never took place.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the DVD here, but I tried to find as many screenshots as possible on the web and added some that I took from the trailer. A little more info can also be found on the film’s official website. (images after the jump if you’re coming through my blog homepage)