BFI London Film Festival: Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith
Directed by Alexandre O Philippe

by Alex Plant

In its 46-year lifespan, The Exorcist has left an indelible mark upon the cinematic landscape, terrifying audiences, delighting critics and inspiring countless filmmakers with its shocking and stylish depiction of demonic possession. In Leap Of Faith, acclaimed documentarian Alexandre O Philippe turns his inquisitive eyes to the story behind one of the most infamous horror movies of all time. The unique twist here is that everything we hear comes from a six-day interview Philippe conducted with legendary filmmaker and Exorcist director William Friedkin.

Less of an in-depth analysis and more of a series of entertaining anecdotes, this documentary’s charm comes entirely from Friedkin’s vibrant personality. We get to hear the origins of The Exorcist’s infamous use of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, hear snippet’s of the film’s unused original score and hear first-hand about some of occasional priest-puncher Friedkin’s more unconventional directing techniques. It’s an endearing portrait of an artist in his own words and it’s equally enjoyable to hear about the film’s more deeply considered aspects as well some of its more effective moments that came from entirely arbitrary decisions.

Some of the most memorable anecdotes involve Friedkin’s recollection of a discussion with legendary composer Bernard Herrman, the bizarre rituals actress Mercedes McCambridge underwent to create Reagan’s demonic vocal tone and how Max von Sydow’s atheism effected his performance. These are told with the sort of fire and fervour that comes so easily to a master storyteller like Friedkin and it’s an utter pleasure to listen to him.

While it’s perhaps not as essential of a companion piece as Mark Kermode’s 1998 documentary Fear Of God, Leap Of Faith is still a must for any fan of The Exorcist. It’s a filmmaking masterclass from one of the industry’s most unique directors.


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