William Friedkin, who directed the the horror classic The Exorcist (1973), says he was allowed to personally witness and film a real exorcism at the Vatican in May – and that it had a huge impact him: “I don’t think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing.”
“I was invited by the Vatican exorcist,” the 80-year-old filmmaker told the students of his masterclass at the Cannes Film Festival, “to shoot and video an actual exorcism which… few people have ever seen and which nobody has ever photographed.”
He explained he was shocked at how closely the exorcism looked compared to his movie. “I was pretty astonished by that.” With a bit of defensiveness, he added, “I am not talking about some cult, I am talking about an exorcism by the Catholic Church in Rome.”
The Vatican, however, has denied they had any involvement. “People often confuse any Catholic initiative/organisation/person with the Vatican,” a Vatican spokesman told AFP. “Perhaps this is the case here.”
Friedkin also told the class how he came to believe in exorcism while making The Exorcist.
“When I started I thought I was making a horror film, and then the priest, who was the president of Georgetown University, let me read these diaries and I knew that it was not a horror film. This was a case of exorcism.”
The diaries he mentioned were written by the priests involved in the real-life exorcism in the 1940s on which the movie was based.
“I believed in this story. I made this story as a believer.”
Nonetheless, he has not joined the Catholic Church. “I’m not Catholic, I don’t go to church, I don’t belong to a church or a synagogue.” He added later: “I don’t intend to join a church…”
But he does hold Jesus in high esteem. “I do believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe they are incredibly profound and beautiful and we know that this character existed… the supernatural aspect I leave to each person’s conscience and belief system.”
“[W]hat amazes me… is the fact that this man [Jesus] lived over 2,000 years ago, preached in the desert, on street corners, and in synagogues, and there is no recording of his voice… yet billions of people have believed in the idea of Jesus Christ.”
“There must be something in there.”
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