There are movies that offer meaning at face value, you get what you paid for. They might have an intricate exterior, beautiful and provoking cinematography, fantastic set design, and an elaborated editing scheme; all aesthetic devices used to evoke the illusion of complexity. Yet there are other movies that are deceitfully simple in production design, but incredibly complex in their story and theme exploration. Movies like the latter can pass through regular viewers as boring and even bad ones, mainly because of the lack of commonality they have with mainstream media but also because of their groundbreaking nature.
Cure is such a film.
This amazing movie by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, which many people consider his best one, is an exemplary exploration of the human condition, of the reality of unconscious desire hidden underneath a fragile exterior of normality. In it, we find a hypnotizer who seems not to remember even his own life, maybe hypnotized himself, meeting people randomly and suggesting them commit murders throughout the city. This obviously catches the attention of the police, more so because all the victims present the same cut pattern on their necks, a cross mark in the flesh.
And so, we meet our protagonist, Kenichi Takabe, a detective tormented by a mentally unstable wife, trying to keep up with a life he no longer enjoys. Yet this is not the type of detective willing to analyze clues or find patterns in the crime scene. We immediately understand that he wants to get to the bottom of things rather fast, as he’s on the verge of desperation about his own problems. There are many things that exacerbate the situation for him. For starters, none of the killers, the hypnotized ones, remembers what happened to them. Worst than that, eventually, Takabe finds the hypnotizer, a strange guy named Mamiya. Questioning him for answers proves futile as this character can only respond with more questions, making conversation not only pointless but annoying to the breaking point.
And thus, we come to realize the truth about the story, progressing towards the inevitable end, which I won’t spoil but be warned, from here on there are spoilers.
There’s one thing to keep in mind to understand what’s going on, the primordial piece of the puzzle. There’s one scene where Takabe gets the idea about the real killer being a hypnotizer, he asks Sakuma, a psychiatrist, and Takabe’s friend, about it. The question is; are hypnotized people capable of killing? Sakuma answers with a blatant no, there’s no way to hypnotize a person out of their own moral choices. Yet most of the hypnotized people committed the murders.
Do you get the idea?
Some people make a comparison between Cure and Se7en, both no more than two years apart from each other. I got the same feeling while watching the movie and can say that there’s definitely some connection there, but there’s also a world of difference in the depth and complexity of each movie. As I said in the beginning, there are movies that want to make you believe there’s something complex being posed behind curtains, while others are so complex that they might pass blindly between your eyes.
By the way, researching the film I came across an amazing video essay about this movie, made by YouTuber Jack Gordon, you can check it here:
I think that if there is one movie that should be shown during Easter week it is “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, forget about those old stories about the death of Jesus or the Ten Commandments, no, no, no. None of those movies have the ability to persuade you to give the Christian religion a chance like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a movie that takes inspiration from the case of Anneliese Michel, a German girl who was apparently a victim of possession, a case that gained fame for having occurred during the modern era, which put religious doctrine directly against scientific thought and resulted in the conviction of Anneliese’s parents and the priests who performed the exorcism to prison for the girl’s death. This real-life case shares many beats with the story of the film and just like the real case, the film is also framed in a discussion between religion and science, a key element that makes this audiovisual piece an emotionally charged story that could convince more than one agnostic about the existence of the realm of the supernatural.
As usual in this blog… Let’s start at the beginning! When I re-watched the movie, before doing the review, there was something that caught my attention about the beginning of the story. It’s what Lagos Esgri calls the “point of attack” or the moment the writer chooses to begin the story. In the case of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the story starts in two different ways, the first is during the moment of Emily’s death, which is the beginning of the story of Father Moore, who is accused of negligent death. The second point of attack in the story is the first scene in which the protagonist, Erin Bromm, the lawyer who takes on the task of defending Father Moore, appears. In the first scene in which Erin appears, she is working in a bar, while her colleagues are all celebrating. The thing is, she is the one who has something to celebrate, she has just won an important lawsuit (she saved a person accused of murder) and yet, instead of celebrating the success, she decides to keep working. Now, I think it’s an interesting point of attack that screenwriters Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman have chosen, as they could have chosen to start the story from Emily Rose’s point of view or perhaps the first time Father Moore encounters the case. But they have chosen the optimal point of attack for the development of the plot they want to tell. For the film is a supernatural crime thriller and the story centers on the trial against Father Moore. So, it is very convenient that the story starts with the father being accused of the murder and his lawyer (reluctantly) taking on the case.
Before the “lock in” (the so-called fighting decision), which occurs 15 minutes in, we already know more or less what the whole movie is going to be about (at least between which poles it is going to move), in part because of the conversation between the two trial lawyers in the case. In this part of the story, Ethan, the prosecuting attorney, indicates that he is Catholic, even asking for a glass of water when Erin invites him for a martini (thereby assuming a moral superiority to her), but then indicates that if it were up to him, Father Moore would go straight to jail, according to the law. This statement surprises Erin, as she had assumed that Catholic people had a strong sense of compassion and forgiveness. From this moment on, we witness the trial against Father Moore, in which the two poles of the plot are intensely debated, the scientific aspect, supported by Ethan and the prosecution, and the religious aspect, assumed by Erin (although she is not religious, but declares herself agnostic) after her first strategy fails (her initial strategy is to discredit the medical evidence presented by the prosecution). The struggle reaches the midpoint of the story when Erin finally assumes that the events that occurred could in fact be the product of the supernatural realm, after meeting Dr. Cartwright, the doctor who was present during the exorcism, and from here on out the film moves intensely towards this version of events, giving us several convincing arguments for the possibility that demons, and therefore God, exist. In fact, one of Emily Rose’s iconic lines is one in which she argues that people say God doesn’t exist, but how can they think that if she shows them the devil? She comes to this conclusion in one of the most emotionally (and cinematically!) powerful scenes in the film, the moment when she understands why this whole demon-possessed thing is happening to her.
The ending of the film is not at all bombastic and I think it’s good that it is so, what it does is that it shows a small change in the attitude of the protagonist, Erin Broom, who goes from being agnostic to being a believer (in a very symbolic but subtle way). Father Moore is found guilty of “negligent death”, but the jury makes a recommendation to the judge, they ask for a “sentence served”, acknowledging his guilt but considering that he has already paid for his crime.
Now and before I finish, I can’t but talk a little bit about the horror aspect of the film. And I feel that this is the weakest point in it I remember the first time I saw it, this aspect made a great impression on me, but this time I have to say that it felt rather forced. In the end, the demonic aspect of the possession is nothing more than a bunch of guttural screams and incidental music, but in the visual aspect it leaves much to be desired. Maybe it’s because that effect where people’s faces transform into demons has been used ad nauseam in thousands of youtube videos and the like. I don’t know, it makes me think of another film that I think has achieved a better visual section on the satanic theme, The Ritual (2017). Some of the visual effects in The Exorcism of Emily Rose I don’t think have aged well with the passage of time.
I think that’s all I can say about The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a film that presents interesting arguments about the possible existence of the realm of the supernatural and really leaves you wanting to know more about it. The main character, Erin Broom, is also a very interesting one, especially because of the great performance of Laura Linney, who gives great intensity to the argumentative sequences during the trial. Perhaps also because her antagonist, Ethan (Cambbell Scott), plays an equally intense role during these scenes. And let’s keep in mind that this movie has a lot of dialogue and is also very entertaining and quick to watch, something that is definitely not easy to achieve. It is for all these reasons that I feel Emily Rose is the perfect movie to watch during Easter week, or as Emily says, how are you going to deny the existence of God if I show you the devil?
The performances of Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott.
The arguments for the existence of the supernatural realm.
The scene where Emily understands why all this possession stuff is happening to her.
The horror parts don’t make as much of an impact as before.
The use of animals to represent evil (come on! If animals are so good!).