Movie Review: Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist

Movie Review: Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist

31st October 2020 Off By Ewan Gleadow

Copyright: Shudder

There is no one better to talk of the history and acclaim horror classic The Exorcist has received than the director himself, William Friedkin. Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist, is an original piece from Shudder, whose name I keep hearing as we hurdle towards yet another streaming service. Picking up documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe to helm this piece, we settle in with Friedkin as he talks us through the creative process for arguably one of the greatest horror films of all time. Unpacking and analysing what made The Exorcist work and how it has managed to survive over forty years of film history is bound to be interesting to some degree. A long-form interview with its creator feels like it’s far too good to be true, but the pairing of Friedkin and Philippe is a welcome, near-perfect sight to behold.   

We get a great insight into Friedkin’s directing, an understanding found within him after decades of coming to terms with the decisions he made for the film. He feels like a director that revels in discussing his work, analysing it with contemporary eyes. detailing his need for spontaneous filming, rather than articulate perfection. The film is filled with content and regret, both pull at Friedkin’s conscience. He reflects not just on the inspirations and acclaim, but the fallout and choices he made as a director. Understanding that times have changed since he made his film is at the core of this, and Friedkin often offers up a change of heart when contemplating the choices he made not just as a director, but as a person also. It makes for an enthralling time, one that thankfully doesn’t diminish the craft of this artist, but gives great perception to his creativity.   

Friedkin debunks legendary myths surrounding the film, the interpretations fans and critics have, his honesty and humble stance on his film is both surprising and refreshing. He admits many of the artistic choices that are mused on decades after its release were complete accidents, happenstance moments that bring about article after article of discussion. There is no rhyme or reason to some of the greatest mysteries of the film, some are born out of sheer frustration or the open-ended nature of the book Friedkin adapted. It’s fascinating, no smoke and mirrors in sight, just an honest piece of work that looks to give time to a director talking about his finest work.   

Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist isn’t just an analysis of Friedkin’s finest work, it’s an uncovering of his influences and process as an artist. As close as we’ll most likely ever get to a perfect documentary on Friedkin himself, he unveils all here, from his earliest memories of cinema, his frank and honest beliefs, and his dearly held passion for filmmaking. All of it is uncovered in such enthusiastic detail, and this eagerness oozes off of the screen and into the audience with remarkable ease. Definitely one for those with a love for The Exorcist, but haven’t read up on much of the behind-the-scenes details, this documentary will provide great stories and fascinating moments from the man that put it all together.