Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist
5th October 2019 3.30pm at Vue West End
Aside from the confirmation that 84-year-old filmmaker William Friedkin has aged exceptionally well, what Alexandre O. Philippe’s new documentary brings us is an extended in-depth interview with the visionary mind that brought The Exorcist to our screens and nightmares in 1973. Working through the themes and aspects of the film that culminated in its resounding success, Leap of Faith explores the production notes that may or may not have substantially changed how the team and audience viewed the classic, using old photographs and footage from both the movie itself and behind the scenes to imbue the production with an ever-higher sense of grace and virtue as characters and documentary reach a final climax.
Leap of Faith does not have a narrative structure per se, but rather pulls different topics and questions out of the air and then investigates them with a fine-tooth comb, both informing and entertaining the viewer delightfully in the process. Friedkin recalls his own experiences and the trials he faced whilst making the film, ranging from choosing what material to keep from the original book to deciding how to manifest the voice of a demon, down to the scrupulous and tiresome task of finding the soundtrack that could make or break the project.
An all too difficult task; but when the interviewee is William Friedkin, the burden seems all too light. The director is a fantastic speaker, aiding the fluidity of the film with his tone of friendship and painless callbacks to events of over 40 years ago. It is evident that he adores his work, even if it drove him up the walls and sometimes contradicted a number of his core beliefs. The excellent unscripted conversation sees Friedkin sail from one tangent to the next, all the while making sure the audience is still in the boat with him as he adds ‘grace notes’ to the reality of life. A true master of language and storytelling.
It would be negligent not to make the point that the documentary is quite indulgent towards Friedkin, arguably posing as a ‘look at me’ moment where the filmmaker is allowed to endlessly exclaim how brilliant his ideas for the film were, but ultimately we love it! Leap of Faith is a fascinating watch for fans and movie buffs alike, offering an inside glimpse into both the making of The Exorcist and the mind of a great filmmaker. When making a movie, it is the intricate details that can make the piece legendary – something that Friedkin knew all too well, tirelessly working over them until the screen is finally engulfed in darkness.
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.