I have seen the movie ‘The Exorcist’ in a 14th century church and this was the unusual experience I had from the inside

The Play-Doc Festival, the international film event based in Tui (Galicia), hosted in its 20th edition a retrospective of one of the great filmmakers in the history of cinema: William Friedkin. The director of masterpieces of the seventh art such as ‘French Connection: against the drug empire’ (1971) and ‘Cursed Cargo’ (1977) died on August 7, 2023, less than a year ago, and his figure has always been been undervalued by ‘competing’ with a generation in which names like Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas stood out. Friedkin left us as the author of some of the most emblematic films of contemporary cinema, such as ‘The Exorcist’ (1973), for many the best horror film in the history of cinema. And precisely this title was responsible for putting the finishing touch to the tribute to his career within the Galician festival.

Tamara de la Fuente

‘The Exorcist’ remains more than 50 years after its release as one of the most influential films of all time, and its mark continues to be felt (and in what way) in current horror cinema. A terrifying film that captures on screen the greatest battle between good and evil, between science and faith, between logic and the inexplicable… And what better place to show ‘The Exorcist’ than the interior of a church that It dates back to the beginning of the 14th century: the convent of Santo Domingo de Tui.

Warner Bros. / Rita Pérez

In the presentation, Play-Doc representatives explained that the choice of a sacred place for the screening of a theoretically blasphemous film was not a provocation, but quite the opposite, and that it had been organized with the approval of its owners. However, it should be noted that several centuries ago the convent of Santo Domingo, on the banks of the Miño River, was disentailed and services are no longer held inside, and that the two current exorcists that exist in Galicia (because, yes, , there are still active exorcists in Spain, and there are many more than you imagine) they are prohibited from speaking on the subject by order of their diocese.

play iconpreview for 'The Exorcist' | Play-Doc Festival

On the one hand, it is true that ‘The Exorcist’ is a film that intrinsically stands in favor of Catholicism, since it is still a triumph of God and his representatives on Earth over the Evil One. “The power of Christ compels you,” is the mantra that Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) keep repeating to free the tender and innocent Regan (Linda Blair) from the demonic spirit that inhabits inside. On the other hand, morbidity is served when that same film depicts the desecration of a church and its religious symbols (without going into the niceties that come out of Regan’s mouth).

And it is that morbidity, after all, that filled the church in the most massive event of the festival, with people queuing at the entrance to collect the glass of hot chocolate that the organization gave to those present to try to combat a cold that, like in Regan’s room, formed clouds of mist among the audience sitting in the convent. Inside, a red light, the color of the devil, illuminated the large baroque altarpiece behind the screen, located just in front of the altar, while the gloomy notes of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ flooded a central nave where chairs had replaced the classic wooden benches.

the exorcist nina church
Warner Bros.

The congregants gathered there occasionally let out a nervous giggle or a joking comment to relax the tension, but as soon as the projection began and the letters ‘THE EXORCIST’ filled the screen, silence fell. A silence that, until the credits rolled, was only interrupted by the occasional scare, since the effect of the church was diluted as soon as people immersed themselves in the story. The audience forgot where they were and why for more than two hours, and the initial surprise and curiosity took a backseat to the magic of the cinema, which is the only supernatural and divine thing that happened that night between the stone walls. of the convent.

Headshot of Fran Chico

Fran Chico is an expert in cinema and series, specialized in cultural dissemination and film criticism. He is a recognized critic on Rotten Tomatoes and Filmaffinity. Although his favorite genre is horror, the same thing tells you about the new blockbuster from Marvel’s MCU and about an auteur film to claim from the festival circuit. There is no series from Netflix, HBO Max, Video or Disney+ that escapes its radar, delving into the catalog of each platform to recommend and analyze its best content.

Fran has been writing in Fotogramas for more than a year, but his beginnings date back almost two decades ago in film forums and blogs such as Planeta Claqueta or Moviementarios. He was founder and part of the board of directors of the digital publication of film criticism and analysis Revista Mutaciones and a member of the Association of Cinematographic Informants of Spain (AICE), the organization that awards the Feroz Awards, as well as a voter for the Blogos de Oro al indie movies. After completing the Master of Film Criticism at the Madrid Film School (ECAM) taught by Caimán Cuadernos de Cine, he has collaborated and/or covered film festivals such as San Sebastián, Sitges and Filmadrid as a specialized press for more than 10 years, along the way interviewing relevant directors, actors and actresses from the national industry such as Penélope Cruz, Carlos Saura, Ana de Armas, José Luis Cuerda or José Sacristán and internationally such as James Wan, Edgar Wright or Dario Argento.

His knowledge and experience have led him to be a film video blogger for Fnac Spain and director and host of the podcast Holocausto Zinéfago, with more than 150 programs broadcast and available in which cinema and humor are mixed from a unique and original.

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