In April of this year the director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin, who had never before witnessed an actual exorcism, was able to shadow the famous official Vatican Exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, and witness him at work.
I had been curious to meet Father Amorth for many years. In the early 1970s, when I directed the film The Exorcist, I had not witnessed an exorcism. Maybe this would be an opportunity to complete the circle, to see how close we who worked on the film came to reality or to discover that what we created was sheer invention.
I had no particular interest in the spiritual or the supernatural when the writer Bill Blatty asked me to direct the film of his novel, The Exorcist. Six years before, I had told him one of his scripts was terrible. As a result, he believed I was the only director who would tell him the truth. We didn’t know each other well at the time, and I had no credits that would suggest I could manage a difficult film such as The Exorcist. Then my film The French Connection opened successfully and the studio came on board.
More than any film I’ve directed, The Exorcist inspired me to the point of obsession each day as I made it. I rejected all constraints, creative and financial. The studio, Warner Bros., thought I had taken leave of my senses. I may have. I made the film believing in the reality of exorcism and never, to this day, thought of it as a horror film.
Friedkin was able to see the last of a series of exorcisms Father Amorth performed on a woman named Rosa. He later tried to meet with Rosa outside of the exorcism context and witnessed her experiencing effects of possession that were more pronounced than those seen in the exorcism itself. Friedkin appears to have been deeply affected by his experiences, and I think, despite claiming to be an agnostic, believes in possession by something real and evil.
Whatever you may think of exorcism, Friedkin’s experiences are remarkable. Sadly, Father Amorth died before Rosa could be freed from evil. But as Friedkin notes:
Before dying, Father Amorth had told Roberto [a man who recognized Rosa might be possessed, and brought her to Father Armouth for help], “When I get to the Good Place I will continue to fight the Devil even harder.”
Venafro is another hillside town of fewer than 12,000 people, in southeastern Italy, near Alatri. There, according to Roberto, a clergyman recently performed an exorcism on Rosa. In the middle of the ritual, the clergyman called on the spirit of Father Amorth for intercession. Rosa began to writhe and screamed, “DON’T! DON’T CALL HIM!”
Father Amorth and Rosa’s work is not yet finished.
You can read Mr. Friedkin’s article HERE. It is fascinating stuff.