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Leap Of Faith’ Takes A Deep Dive Into ‘The Exorcist’

Director William Friedkin dissects his film in new documentary

Photo credit: William Friedkin

Director William Friedkin with actress Linda Blair on the set of "The Exorcist."

Companion viewing

"The People Vs. George Lucas" (2010)

"Doc of the Dead" (2014)

"De Palma" (2015)

"The Exorcist" movie is nearly 50 years old yet it still ranks as one of the films that most scares audiences. "Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on 'The Exorcist,'" streaming on Shudder, is a new documentary that explores the making of the film with its director.

"Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on 'The Exorcist'" is essentially a hundred minutes of the director talking about himself and the making of the 1973 film based on William Peter Blatty's popular novel.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

Both the book and the film made quite a stir. People reportedly keep the book outside the house in a garage or even a freezer for fear it would bring some curse on the reader. Then the film had people fainting in theaters. (Check out this short documentary to get a feel for the cultural impact it had.)

The film became a blockbuster. It was a horror film yet critics and the Academy embraced it. The story involved a young girl (Linda Blair) who appears to be possessed by a demon. After her mother (Ellen Burstyn) exhausts medical options and therapists' advice, she turns to the Catholic church and a pair of Jesuit priests (brilliantly played by Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller) to exorcise the demon.

For the new documentary, filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe simply sits Friedkin down and lets him talk. This is a similar format to the documentary "De Palma" and in both cases the directors are fully capable of holding our attention simply by talking to us about their craft. Both Friedkin and De Palma are artists who think seriously about their work and are eager to discuss the process and the things that have influenced them.

Kudos to Philippe for continuing to find fascinating ways to explore films and the creative process. I highly recommend his earlier films "The People Vs. George Lucas," Doc of the Dead," and "78/52."

Friedkin, at 85, is still razor sharp and compelling to listen to. He is quick to take credit for the film's success as he recalls many of the decisions made about casting, crew and story. He has a big ego but it’s backed by remarkable talent and the ability to dissect his own work in intricate detail. He’s an articulate artist who can explain how the lighting in a painting influenced a particular shot or how he used sound design to build tension. If you can put up with his arrogance then you’ll get amazing insight into his filmmaking process and a new appreciation for "The Exorcist."

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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