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Jewish World Review
March 3, 2006
/ 3 Adar, 5766
Why did conservatives ignore Emily Rose?
Standing silently in contrast to all the Oscar hoopla this week is the most underrated, untalked-about movie of the year. That
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" didn't garner a single Academy nomination isn't surprising, but why didn't it win any notice from
Granted, the title suggests a horror film, but "Emily Rose" is actually a courtroom drama about faith that takes audiences on a
spiritual journey. In a departure from the cynical treatment that religion usually gets in Hollywood, the film's hero is a Roman Catholic Priest. Father Richard Moore,
played stunningly by onetime Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson, is on trial for the death of a girl on whom he performed an
unsuccessful exorcism. In a further departure, Laura Linney — an Academy favorite who generally plays leftist heroines — is a
defense lawyer who gains a conscience over the course of the story, and who asks the jury to keep an "open mind" on behalf
of a Catholic priest.
In the film — based on events that occurred in the 1970s to a 19-year-old German co-ed named "Michel" — the charge is
negligent homicide. As Laura Linney told MovieWeb.com, the issue of the case isn't about whether or not Emily was
possessed, but whether Father Moore contributed to her death.
The prosecution's case is that Moore endangered Emily's life by persuading her to abandon her medical treatment in favor of
religious treatment. In addition to punching holes in the prosecution's medical case, the Linney character, Erin Bruner, tries to
validate the alternative — that is, the possibility of possession — in a court of law. She tells the jury, "Maybe you can't reconcile
[Moore's] beliefs with your own, [but] after the failures of the doctors, he simply tried to help Emily in a different way."
Along the way, Bruner — an agnostic and a complacent, self-obsessed attorney who became a media celebrity when she got an
accused murderer acquitted — is led not only to reevaluate her choice of profession when her former client strikes again, but
also to undergo a spiritual awakening of her own. In her closing arguments, Bruner tells the jury that she is "a woman of doubt.
Angels and demons, G-d and the Devil. These things either exist, or they do not exist…Either possibility is astonishing. I
cannot deny that it's possible. And this trial is about possibilities….Is it possible that [Emily] was beloved by G-d and that she
chose to suffer to the end so we believe in a more magical world?....That sincere belief determined her choices, and Father
Echoing Linney's characterization of the film as one that would be a "balanced examination of these events" rather than a movie
"that told people how to think," Belisa Silva, of Lehigh University's student paper "The Brown and White," writes, "I think the
reason this movie scared me so much was because it doesn't push to make believers out of its audience. It merely presents the
story and lets you decide for yourself whether you think Emily was truly possessed by demons or merely epileptic… Although
exorcisms and possession seem ridiculous in today's society, the movie asks that we consider the possibility of its existence."
In fact, by asking us to consider whether or not demons exist, what the film is really asking us to consider is the existence of a
spiritual world and therefore G-d. No doubt, for some audience members, it is that possibility that will be the most horrifying
aspect of this "horror" film.
As the epitaph on Emily's grave reads, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)
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