First, a quick bit of history: back in the late 60's a young Bavarian woman named, Anneliese Michel began suffering violent epileptic seizures. A few year's later, the seizures worsening, Michel started claiming that she was hearing voices as well. Frustrated by the lack of relief at the hands of medical professionals, Michel's family turned to the local Catholic church who determined that the young woman was possessed by demons and evil spirits. Allegedly, 67 exorcisms were held over a ten month period, and sadly, Michel died due to malnutrition. Shortly thereafter, her family and the priest involved were taken to court and found guilty of the young girl's death due to negligence.
Unlike ...Emily Rose, Requiem takes a much more realistic view of Michel (here known as Michaela Klingler - and played brilliantly by Sandra Hüller) and her circumstances. From the get go, we are aware that Michaela is the product of a stifling, overly religious up bringing. Her mother (Imogen Kogge) is especially a thorn in the teen girl's side. When Michaela is accepted to a local university, it is only through the intersession of her somewhat more liberal minded father (Burghart Klaußner) that she gets to break away.
At first, college life seems to agree with her. For a brief moment, the mousy little girl blossoms in the glory of early 70's dorm life, drinking, making friends, and even finding a boy friend. And then, one night, she has another seizure - but this time, she begins hearing voices (keep in mind, the viewer sees or hears nothing except for Michaela's reactions). Soon, the episodes start happening more and more, and Michaela becomes obsessed with the life of Saint Catherine of Siena as well as the idea of martyrdom. Finally, she stops taking her medication and falls deeper and deeper into a deluded existence.
Interestingly, when Michaela asks a local priest for help, he tries to dissuade her from any kind of divine intervention and urges her to see a doctor and a therapist claiming that the devil and demons are not real, they are just creations used by the church to give evil an identity. When a younger priest hears about her situation, he manages to get the church's approval to preform the exorcism.
What makes Requiem such a compelling film is that it plainly shows a young woman who would have benefited from some intense psychiatric counseling and medical care as opposed to having her delusions fed. And while it is up to viewer to draw his or her own conclusions as to what is actually wrong with Michaela, one may have a very hard time dealing with the fact that common sense did not win out in the end.
For more information on the true story that inspired Requiem CLICK HERE.
Anneliese Michel 1952-1976