Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Two months in Rome - how bad could that be?"

Maybe I shouldn't post a review of this week's movie rental, The Rite, as I gave up on the film halfway through. It would fall into the "religious horror" genre, I guess, and many in that genre have ended up on my favorite movies list, but still this movie, based on The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by journalist Matt Baglio, just rubbed me the wrong way.

The plot -- Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), a young man who lives with his ultra-Catholic undertaker dad (Rutger Hauer), hates his Six-Feet-Under life and applies to seminary on a scholarship to get away from home, planning to drop out after graduation instead of becoming a priest. He does well in seminary, except for theology studies, and feels no doubts about not being ordained. That is, until his priest-mentor says that if he does leave without becoming a priest, his scholarship will turn into a $100,000 student loan (can seminary really cost this much!?). The priest tells him he'll let him off the financial hook if Michael will agree to take a two month exorcist class at the Vatican. Michael agrees.

- Two months in Rome - how bad could that be?

Michael joins the class in Rome (based on a class sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ - yikes!) but remains skeptical about the existence of the devil and the worth of exorcism, as does a fellow classmate, a reporter, Angelina (Alice Braga). The instructor sends Michael to work with practicing exorcist, Fr. Lucasa (Anthony Hopkins), a Jesuit (heh). Lucasa lives in a church-affiliated hovel with a courtyard filled with stray cats, and seems tired, distracted, depressed, and disturbed, but hey, given his job, can we be surprised? He takes Michael under his wing as he exorcises demons, yet Michael continues to doubt until one of Lucasa's exorcees dies under mysterious circumstances .... Michael then begins experiencing unpleasant supernatural phenomena and Lucasa becomes himself possessed.

I've read that the film goes on to have Michael successfully exorcise Lucasa's demon and then decide to become a priest after all, But a small frog had already been tossed into an incinerator and I was starting to worry about the continuing well-being of all the stray cats so conveniently living at Lucasa's dwelling ;) so it was at this point that I stopped watching the movie -- it wasn't just the animals in jeopardy that made me quit watching -- the film was just so dark, depressing, and emotionally ugly (and, ok, scary) that I didn't want any more of it in my head.

I suppose part of what I disliked about the film is the sort of Catholic stamp of approval it seemed to be wearing -- the movie is said to be based on facts, it begins with a the-devil-really-exists quote from JPII, the script writer was Catholic, the US Bishops approved of the film, and Catholic Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars. Is my church really all about "the devil made me do it" ? :(


Anonymous David Smith said...


Maybe I shouldn't say anything, because I just don't watch movies any more.

One reason's the linearity of film. You have to watch it from start to finish, which usually takes an hour or two, at least, of your life. I can read a book in pieces, and make notes, and go back and review it or even read it again. Same with an article in a magazine or on a blog. But movies are indivisible units. You can, of course, break them up and watch them in pieces, but that breaks the mood, and the mood, in a movie, is just about everything. So, to *experience* the movie - which are created to be experienced emotionally - you simply have to endure the whole thing, like it or not.



12:29 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I do usually watch them from start to finish but that one was too icky :) I'd hate to give up all movies but I think I know what you mean. I gave up novels when it got to be too much trouble to see the words. Now I listen to them instead, though. Maybe even broken-up movies would be better than no movies at all?

12:49 AM  
Anonymous David Smith said...


No, not here. Movies seem to belong firmly in the past :o)

Audio books are wonderful. And there are so many, now. I've got a reading problem that makes reading a paper book nearly an impossibility, but audio books are perfectly accessible. Do you rent them from Audible?


1:46 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I did buy a few from Audible but it got too expensive. I just get them from the library now. There's also a place online that has some public domain audio books -

1:54 AM  
Anonymous David Smith said...


When I lived two hours north of here, in Columbus, there was a wonderful library in a suburb called Bexley that had a large collection of serious audio books. Down here in Cincinnati, I've found nothing like that, alas.

I used to listen to audiobooks in the car, but recently I've not been driving so much and when I do, I usually listen to Spanish-language material. Hard head - takes forever to acquire listening fluency. It's coming, though - maybe in fifty more years.


4:12 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Foreign language - that'c commendable. My library doesn't have many either but they have an inter-library loan system, link +, that lets us send for books from near by libraries, which helps.

1:01 PM  

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