One would think that, after directing the iconic film “The Exorcist,” there wouldn’t be too much left that could scare filmmaker William Friedkin, but, as it turns out, witnessing a real-life exorcism apparently left the movie director pretty terrified.
Friedkin told Variety that he finally saw the exorcism rite being performed first-hand decades after making “The Exorcist” — and that the real-life experience included thrashing, screaming, foaming at the mouth and other horrors.
It was an event that he filmed while working on his new documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth,” a film about Father Gabriele Amorth, a 91-year-old priest who performed daily exorcisms for the Vatican’s Rome Diocese until his death last September.
Friedkin told Variety about the details of the shoot, explaining that he went along with Amorth and that he had to keep a relatively low profile as the exorcism was unfolding.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I went from being afraid of what could happen to feeling a great deal of empathy with this woman’s pain and suffering, which is obvious in the film.”
The director said that he had to go alone with Amorth and that there was no crew or lights allowed — for obvious reasons. It was the ninth time that “Rosa,” the exorcism subject, was having the rite performed, Friedkin said.
“I used a Sony still camera that shot high-definition video,” he said. “I had only that camera running and I was about two feet away from them, probably even closer.”
Friedkin wrote a piece for Vanity Fair last year that offered additional details about Rosa’s exorcism — and they’re pretty creepy:
Rosa’s head began to nod involuntarily. Her eyes rolled back, and she fell into a deep trance. Father Amorth spoke in Latin in a loud, clear voice, using the Roman ritual of Paul V, from 1614. He asked the Lord to set her free from demonic infestation. “EXORCIZO DEO IMMUNDISSIMUS SPIRITUS.” (I exorcize, O God, this unclean spirit.)
Rosa’s body began to throb, and she cried out, before falling back into a trance. Father Amorth placed his right hand over her heart. “INFER TIBI LIBERA.” (Set yourself free.)
She lost consciousness. “TIME SATANA INIMICI FIDEM.” (Be afraid of Satan and the enemies of faith.)
Without warning, Rosa began to thrash violently. The five male helpers had all they could do to hold her down. A foam formed at her lips.
You can read much more about the exorcism — including some comments from Rosa herself — here.