Thursday 4 September 2008

Requiem - on BBC 4

I found this to be a very moving but disturbing story. This is the sort of film which, once you start to watch, you cannot turn off because you need to know what happens next. Michaela, who, like the rest of her family, is a very devout Catholic and also has an illness. You immediately warm to this quiet, unassuming but troubled character who struggles to be independent from her parents. The story starts when Michaela moves to University, much to the displeasure of her mother, who is afraid that Michaela’s illness will cause her trouble while she's away from her protection. Michaela however, is certain that her strong religious faith will help her through any difficulties which life throws at her.

It was Michaela herself (played by the wonderful Sandra Hüller) which made this film particularly fascinating to me, if not exactly 'enjoyable'. Her illness is referred to as epilepsy but she is also very mentally disturbed in many ways, and we see her go from polar opposites of happiness to consuming anguish and mental torment. Michaela has a very sweet and calm expression but Hüller contorted it into a hellish gargoyle-face during Michaela's darker moments when her stability crumbles completely. This seemed to provoke a feeling that the 'devil' within her was finally breaking free, and Michaela was consumed by her illness and finally broken apart by the cruel 'exorcism' which she was submitted to. The fact that the film was loosely based on a true story makes it all the more compelling.

A fascinating, sad and memorable story, beautifully made.

Trailer on YouTube: Requiem

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