05 February 2011

The Rite

I just watched the movie The Rite this afternoon, and I am thoroughly disappointed. The book with the same name by Matt Baglio, which I read as soon as it came out, is very good, so I had high expectations of the movie. It's easier to list all the things the movie got right than all the things it got wrong:
  • There is such a thing as demonic possession.
  • A course on exorcism is offered in Rome.
  • Sometimes a possessed person will vomit up nails.

Pretty much everything else in the movie is pure fiction.

There are a few things in the movie that are so wrong that I just have to comment on. First, a person cannot be possessed by a demon unless a demon is invited in some way. Any experienced exorcist, like the one played by Anthony Hopkins, would never make such an invitation. As well, real exorcists are never "less orthodox," they are always very orthodox.

Second, until a person is ordained a priest, they are not a priest, and a demon would never call them a priest. A deacon that doubts his faith, let alone his vocation to the priesthood, such as the main character of this movie, would never be chosen by his bishop to become an exorcist. (That's right, it's the bishop that makes the decision.) And, a deacon cannot give absolution. Not to mention the fact that absolution without confession should never take place unless there is an immediate danger of death.

Most importantly, the devil has no reason to convince people he exists. He'd much rather try to convince people he doesn't exist. A person is more likely to follow Christ if he believes in the existence of the devil, especially if he knows the true reality of the devil and not some Hollywood version of the devil.

This movie does have some redeeming features. First of all, it portrays the Church in a positive manner, something that is usually laking in Hollywood. Second, the main character becomes a priest and doesn't leave the diaconate to marry the reporter, contrary to the usual outcome in boy meets girl movies. Most of all, the movie may spark people's interests enough that they my read the book, which is very accurate and factual.

I do not recommend the movie The Rite; however, I highly recommend the book with the same title by Matt Baglio.