At long
last, there’s another minor current of filmmakers making art film out of genre.
(The last genuine one I remember was around the time of Don’t Look Now.) Look at Les
, which ran at the festival in 2004. That was a zombie movie
re-cast as social commentary. Requiem is similar, in that it
tackles exorcism in the real world, though it has the advantage of a true story
to work from. Either Les Revenants was fiction, or the
French press is a lot lazier than I’d thought.

follows Michaela, who comes from one of those ultra-religious homes that these
days probably watch Hell House and anti-abortion videos instead of Saturday morning
cartoons. Not that either of those things existed in the early ’70s, when this
story takes place. Michaela escapes home to attend college, where her dormant
epilepsy becomes an entirely new sort of problem.

than simply suffering seizures, Michaela begins to hear voices, claiming that
forces within her will no longer allow her to pray, or even touch her rosary.
You can take Requiem in any number of ways; as an ultra-realistic vision of
possession, for example, or as a fatalistic examination of the aftermath of
religious repression.

Michaela’s problems aren’t simply related to her illness. Away from home for
the first time, she’s experiencing both individual and sexual freedom. One of
the most incredible scenes occurs when she goes to a dance club for the first
time; watching her dance, totally selfless and newly uninhibited, is like
watching an adult learn to walk.

Hüller is a revelation as Michaela. She performs the role’s demanding physical
affects with the vigor of Gena Rowlands, and channels Cate Blanchett’s depth
and cool. Imogen Kogge plays her mother, adding layers to a role that on paper
is stereotypically simple — instead seeming a simple religious freak, Kogge’s
performance suggests a woman who sublimated her own spiritual well-being for
Church and family, and resents her daughter’s potential to become the woman she
never was.

I saw Requiem
in two parts. The first sitting was on the first day of the festival,
but I missed the opening 15 minutes. At the end of the festival I hit one of
the public screenings so I could be sure to see everything. That says a lot – I
could have been seeing a lot of other films that second time, but liked Requiem
enough to want the full experience. IFC First Take has the film for US
distribution, and it’ll be one that I’ll be sure to recommend again when it
hits theaters in a regular run.

8.6 out
of 10