Opening 2 Mar 2006
Requiem is a film “inspired” by the story of Anneliese Michel, who died in 1976 at the age of 23 after experiencing a weekly ritual of exorcisms for over a year. She weighed 31 kilos at her death, and her mental condition had evolved into extreme manifestations of psychosis. Whether or not you believe she was truly possessed by the spirits of Lucifer, or prefer a more scientific explanation, is up to you, but this is not a horror film like The Exorcist or The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
The director, Hans Christian Schmidt, and author, Bernd Lange, concentrated on that part of Michel’s life which led up to the exorcisms, whereby the details, dialogues, and relationships in the movie are entirely fictitious. Nonetheless, they did retain certain facts. Like Anneliese Michel, the character of Michaela Klinger (Sandra Hüller) had been suffering from an increasingly bizarre form of epilepsy since she was 16. Now at 20 she is eagerly preparing to be a student at the University of Tübingen, a world apart from her strict Catholic family and small Bavarian village. But her epilepsy attacks cannot be controlled by the medication she has been taking and evolve into even more freakish forms. The doctors are no help, and she cannot find solace in her religion. The pull of the free, uninhibited student life of the early 70s which surrounds her is in direct contrast to her carefully guarded, Catholic upbringing. Her battle to keep some sort of balance in her life is failing. Her mother, (Imogen Kogge) – who makes Mommie Dearest look like Mother Teresa – is uncomprehending and unforgiving, and Michaela’s desperation is painful to watch. Her patient and loving suitor, Stephan (Nicholas Reinke), and her strongly supportive friend, Hanna (Anna Blomeier), cannot save her.
Sandra Hüller gives a luminous performance in her first feature role and fully deserves the Silver Bear for Best Actress awarded her this year at the Berlinale. The film is an affecting exploration of a mental and physical breakdown and the utter powerlessness of medicine and religion, even the love of family and friends, to deter the disaster. (Adele Riepe)