Requiem Movie Review

Written by Rosie Fletcher

DVD released by IFC Films

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Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid
Written by Bernd Lange
2006, R2 (PAL), 89 minutes, Rated 12 (UK)
DVD released on March 26th, 2007

Starring:
Sandra Hüller as Michaela Klingler
Burghart Klaussner as Karl Klingler
Imogen Kogge as Marianne Klingler
Anna Blomeier as Hanna Imhof
Nicholas Reinke as Stefan Weiser
Jens Harzer as Martin Borchert
Walter Schmidinger as Gerhard Landauer
Friederike Adolph as Helga Klingler
Irene Kugler as Heimleiterin Krämer
Johann Adam Oest as Professor Schneider
Eva Loebau as Krankenschwester

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Review:

Requiem is a German film based on the story of Anneliese Michel — the teenager who suffered epileptic incidents and died after becoming convinced she was possessed by demons. The same story was the basis of the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose. But while Emily Rose is concerned with the court case after Emily’s death and is rather more ambiguous about whether or not Emily could have actually been possessed, Requiem is less interested in the exorcism itself and more focused on how Michaela (the girl in question in this version of the story) came to ask a priest to rid her of demons. Requiem isn’t a horror film but a drama — and it’s a well performed, engaging and rather sad one.

Michaela Klinger is 21, the daughter of religious parents who live simply and privately in small town Germany. Michaela wins a scholarship to attend university and her mother is initially resistant because Michaela’s previous incidences of epilepsy and a sense of wanting to stop her from being corrupted by the world. Michaela’s father manages to convince her mother to agree to let her go.

University can be hard — especially hard for a sheltered and religious 21 year old in a time of rock and roll, drugs and rebellion. But Michaela is bright and studious and she makes a close friend and finds herself a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the pleasures and challenges of her new life are heavily conflicted with the rules and traditions of her upbringing and Michaela isn’t coping.

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Sandra Hüller plays Michaela sensitively and intensely. She’s awkward and doesn’t quite fit in to university life, but she’s still a young woman who wants the same things as most 21 year olds do. Her relationship with her father is particularly touching, and it’s this relationship that adds the most poignancy to the end of the film. Burghart Klaussner, as Michaela’s father, deserves a particular mention for a subtle and sincere performance, but the entire cast is excellent.

The washed out colour palette, sparing use of musical score and the slightly unsteady camera add to a sense of realism and give a "Dogme" feel to the film. The colours and costumes also set the film solidly in the 1970s. There are some lovely shots of the German countryside but everything feels a little sad and subdued.

What struck me most about Requiem was its humanity, and not its strangeness. It’s a careful and in-no-way sensational telling of a shocking story. It’s not especially interested in laying blame at the feet of any of the characters, but more showing how easy — and even appealing — it could be for someone like Michaela to blame the conflict she feels on something external — to remove herself from the equation, and almost reject responsibility for dealing with it. She struggles to resolve what she’s been taught about God and sin, with the fact that she’s 21, wants to look nice and go to nightclubs and have a boyfriend; everything she’s understood to be true in her childhood with everything she is now learning.

Those who’ve seen Emily Rose, or who know the story before the film begins, might find Requiem a little slow at times. It’s not scary or especially shocking, nor is it trying to be. Instead, it’s a well drawn and well performed character study; well worth a watch, but possibly not to the taste of the die-hard horror fan.

Audio, Video and Special Features not rated as this was a screener

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Grades:

 
Movie: Threeandahalfstars
Video: n/a
Audio: n/a
Features: n/a
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

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