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Hans-Christian Schmid • Director

"My film is against all religious fundamentalism"


Hans-Christian Schmid •  Director

Cineuropa: After having dealt with religious extremism in one of your previous features, what compelled you to make another one on modern exorcisms?
Hans-Christian Schmid : I grew up in a small town in Bavaria, which is a famous pilgrimage destination and where religion thus had a very strong influence. Although I’m not a believer, religious has always been present in my life and I’ve already tackled the subject in several of my earlier works. But there was something else that interested me here: I wanted to tell stories about families. I read about this story ten years ago, when the pilgrimages to Klingenberg began, to the grave of Anneliese Michel, a girl who died following numerous exorcisms. Anneliese was considered a martyr, a true saint. But what interested me about that story was seeing how the members of a family react when one of them gets sick. I wanted to focus on family relationships, on people who love each other, who try and do what’s best but cannot avoid the irreparable.

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On the one hand, you have a young girl from the country who goes to university, has fun in discos – in other words, a woman from an emancipated Germany – yet who still has one foot planted in superstition. On the other, a strict mother. This difficult relationship leads to the explosion of the illness.
This relationship was always the most important [element] of the story for screenwriter Bernd Lange and I. The girl tries to live a normal life, with her university classes, her first boyfriend. All young people go through these things but, unlike the main character, they manage to overcome the generational conflicts that exist in their lives. In this case, for the main character, the conflict with her mother, who lived through WWII and is unable to express her feelings, has become too great and, at a certain point, goes too far, crushing her fragile psychic equilibrium.

The film is based on a true story but could easily be considered a statement on how wrong it is to make religion a fundamental element of education.
Where I was born, religion is everything and people even bless their cars. What interested me most were the different ways the two priests chose to deal with the problem. The older priest is more open and yielding while the younger one is more inflexible, a kind of scientist convinced of dealing with an extraordinary case and having all the most adequate instruments in confronting the situation. I wasn’t interested in condemning religion and its weight, because in 2006 there’s no longer any need to make a film on how wrong it is to try and cure an epileptic girl through exorcisms. I find that all religious fundamentalism is wrong because it characteristically closes in upon itself and does not look to the outside world. The tragedy of these people is that they lived in a bubble built on their convictions, which kept others out.

How was Requiem [+see also:
film review
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
interview: Sandra Hueller
film profile
received in Germany?

There are clear religious divides in Germany: the south is very Catholic and the north Protestant while in the east, in the part that was Communist, they lived for a long time without religion. So for audiences in the north and east, what I depicted in the film was just a strange story they hadn’t heard of yet whereas in the south these were things people already knew. As far as the Church’s reaction is concerned, the more open faction understood that it wasn’t a film against the Church but one that simply told a story about a family. My film was at the centre of several debates analysing what the Church has done in the past and what it’s doing today.

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