Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Rite: Review [Contains Spoilers]

The Rite is about a young man who grows up in his family's funeral business and eventually attends seminary to discern his calling to the priesthood. He is a skeptical young man who eventually tries to quit seminary due to his lack of faith. Unhappy with his decision, his director arranges for the young man to go to Rome to experience exorcism firsthand.

He faithlessness is soon put to the test as many inexplicable events occur in his life which cannot be explained by science.

I felt this movie was quite good. It presented an issue which comes up frequently when dealing with the topic of demonic possession - is it evil influence or psychological issues. The movie did a good job of presenting the Church's real feeling on the issue. The Church says psychological means should be thoroughly explored before a spiritual explanation is given. This doesn't mean that a person must spend 25 years trying to cure an apparent mental illness before a priest is consulted, but people are advised to take this first step.

Once a natural, psychological explanation has been ruled out, an exorcism can take place. There are indicators, which the movie presents, which point to a demonic possession as opposed to a psychological disturbance. One example given in the movie is knowing the unknowable. For example, a patient will know the contents of a bag they've never seen before. Or the person will begin to fluently speak another language they have no knowledge of. Or the possessed will know information about the exorcist that no one else does except the exorcist himself.

These manifestations were quite apparent in the movie.

I liked seeing all the devotional objects in the movie. They were well done and looked quite real. Also, the movie featured many good prayers and seemed to go to some length to show an accurate representation of the Church.

I did however have some issues.

A small one was when the priest was making a cross on someone's head and first moved his thumb down, but then moved his thumb from right to left, which is the reverse of what is correct.

But that's quite minor. A major issue I had with the film was in some of the portrayal of exorcism which differs from reality, including:

1) The exorcist who seems to have a good prayer life and seems to be a holy man becomes possessed. According to the chief exorcist of Rome, this is almost unheard of. The usual victims of possession are people who venture into sorcery, fortune telling, ouija boards, etc.

2) One of the exorcism patients dies while being possessed. Again according to the chief exorcist, the devil cannot kill someone who is possessed, he does not have that much power.

I believe Hollywood needs to do a better job at presenting the risk factors for demon possession. In The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Emily is a very devout Catholic girl who is possessed. According to priests in the field, the majority of cases come from people who become involved in demonic activities, not practicing Catholics.

Also, not all exorcisms are head-spinning, nail-spitting, levitating events. Often they are much more subtle because the Devil is a deceiver. He would rather hide. In fact, The Rite made clear that the Devil prefers that people ignore him.

Overall, I would rate this movie 4/5. The Church is portrayed in a fairly accurate and reverent way, while some of the information is not fully accurate in order to advance the plot.

[The following was added  February 26, 2011]

To purchase the book upon which this film is based from Amazon for just $9.57, click the link below:

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