There was just something odd about Michaela Klingler. She was pretty enough, in a plain way, but something had set her apart from her high school classmates. First off, she was an extremely pious Catholic girl in the 1970’s, when religion was falling out of favor. The other odd thing is that she missed her senior year, and nobody knew why.
Michaela had epilepsy, a disease we didn’t understand as well in 1973 as we do today. Thus, for her eighteenth year, Michaela suffered through tests and more tests. Then other tests to confirm the previous tests. The doctors prescribed her pills to take to reduce the frequency and power of her epileptic seizures. Finally, the doctors find a med that seems to control her epilepsy quite well, so Michaela decides to go to University and study to be a teacher.
Her mother is dead-set against it. She doesn’t think the pills are enough to control Michaela’s problem. Her father is a kind, loving man, and while he worries about Michaela, he also secretly got her a dorm room, because he wants her to have a shot at her dream.
Initially, Michaela is overwhelmed, but she soon becomes a good student. She runs into a girl from her high school, Hannah, and Hannah shuns her. It could be because Michaela was known as the school nutball back then, or it could be because Hannah’s father is known throughout their village as a notoriously violent alcoholic. Either way, despite the rocky start, the two quickly become best friends. At a dance one night, Michaela meets Stefan, a handsome older boy. Stefan is working at the dance, selling beverages and sandwiches. There is immediate electricity between the two, and they enjoy a romantic first kiss.
So everything is fairly normal thus far. Michaela’s doing well in school, making friends, taking her pills regularly, and she’s seizure-free. This is too good to last.
During a short break from school, Michaela joins her family on their annual pilgrimage to a Catholic shrine. They carry candles up a hill to the old church, and Michaela prays. Later, her usually horrible mother gives her a beautiful rosary. Her parents and sister spend the night with her before driving home. Michaela wakes first, takes her rosary, and goes downstairs to the quiet dining hall. The rosary falls on the floor. When she tries to pick it up, she’s unable. She collapses, and has a seizure. Her father finds her and takes care of her.
Gradually, Michaela experiences similar issues with prayer, touching the Crucifix in her room, and anything else religious. She drinks constantly, and complains that “they” won’t stop yelling at her. Voices in the head. Not good.
Michaela stops taking her meds (also not good). She pushes Stefan away. One night, she has an unusually bad seizure, and Hannah convinces Stefan to drive Michaela home to her parents. She freaks out there, talking about the voices in her head telling her things. One night, her parents start praying The Lord’s Prayer at her, and she screams at them like…well, like a madwoman. Her mother calls in the priests, and they begin the process of exorcism.
The film is based on a true story; how loosely based, we don’t know. The exorcism went on for weeks, as they do, but we only see the first day. An end-card gives us the results.
The movie’s core question is this: is Michaela possessed by evil spirits? Or does she just have a serious neurological disorder? The movie seemed to imply that it was her already broken brain, not demons.
Either way, Sandra Hueller gives a hell of a performance as Michaela. She goes from meek to strong to screaming insanity and every gradation between. The film is worth watching if only to see her acting. Her father, played by Burghart Klaussner, also shines.
In general, “Requiem” soft-soaps the possibility that Michaela is possessed. Unlike, say, “The Exorcist,” we never see any manifestations of malevolent entities: no spinning heads, homicidal furniture, or projectile vomiting. If they’d resorted to the demonic effects, it would have defeated the film’s purpose: was she really hearing demons in her head, or was it her diseased brain? While I get that, I think the film could have shown more of Michaela being convinced she’s possessed. Maybe more explanation.
All-in-all, this is a good movie for a rainy afternoon.
What I mean to say is that it…
It’s just bad-ass. There. I said it.
The idea is sort of demented. In Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe is working as a critic for the Baltimore Patriot newspaper. He’s a notorious alcoholic who’s always broke. One day, a crime is committed, apparently in a sealed room. Three women are slashed up with a straight razor. The door was locked–with the cops outside–and the windows nailed shut. How did the killer escape? A police inspector shows up. He has a far-fetched idea, and it shows how the killer got away. The idea came from a story by?
Right. This is only the start. Strange, grisly murders pop up all over Baltimore, all tied to an Edgar Allan Poe story. The police team up with Poe to track down the killer. When the killer kidnaps Poe’s beloved Virginia, he starts to lose it.
Edgar Allan Poe is played by John Cusack as being roguishly arrogant. He’s a troubled guy: obviously alcoholic, with lousy people skills, but you can’t miss his genius.
“The Raven” is a dark movie, both tonally and in a “there isn’t a lot of light” sense. It was a failure at the box office, and critical reception was lukewarm. I liked the performances–especially Cusack in a role that let him stretch artistically–and I thought the story was compelling and well told.
Quoth the Raven, “Hell, I’ll probably watch it again next time I take NyQuil.”
(I think that was a different Raven)
Requiem: B- (Not Rated: Probably PG-13; in German w/subtitles)
The Raven: B+ (Rated R for lots of guts & gore; in English w/German subtitles (I’m kidding about the last part)