Ask, And It Shall Be Given To You

Ask, And It Shall Be Given To You

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Warner Bros 

Release date: June 20th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 110 minutes

Director: Martin Campbell

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds, Rutger Hauer, Chris Marquette, Franco Nero, Torrey DeVitto, Toby Jones, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Colin O’Donoghue

Seek and ye shall find (Luke 11:9)

Where I come from, possession and exorcisms are very real. In my family there are stories, so many stories. You hear them in whispered voices, over the garden fence or through cracks in the doors at night when aunts and neighbours gather around the kitchen table, but never told to children.

In Christianity, stories about exorcisms appear in the Gospel of St. Matthew (8:28-33) and tell of Jesus in coming across a demon who called itself ‘Legion’. Jesus cast it out and into a herd of pigs who ran toward the edge of a mountain and jumped off. Before the time Christ, in the Old Testament, David cures Saul from possession by playing a harp (Book of Samuel 16:23).

The Rite

Exorcism stories aren’t confined to Christianity though. Throughout history there have been many stories from almost every religion and culture on Earth. But the stories told on film can be just as terrifying too. The Exorcist (1973) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) testify to that, as does The Rite, based on a journalistic account by Matt Baglio (“The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist”).

It begins quietly enough but with an eerie atmosphere. Seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) is a brooding sceptic who goes off to Rome to become an exorcist to avoid repaying his student loan. Once there, he meets Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins) who will train him. Through his exorcisms over the years he’s gained a lot of experience, but life has also made him a bit rough around the edges and his techniques are somewhat unorthodox, it’s accurate to say Father Lucas lacks a good bedside manner.

The Rite

They try to help a young pregnant woman, Rosaria (Marta Gastini), whom Kovak believes is more in need of a psychiatrist than an exorcist. There’s also a young boy who at first seems to be suffering at the hands of his mother. One by one Kovak is dismissive of these cases until one presents itself so strongly that he is forced to reassess what and who he believes in.

Toads, mules with red eyes and crucifixes that bend and turn themselves upside down are just some of the things he is shown, but there’s nothing that can prepare him for what Father Lucas is about to throw. In one of his most amazing performances in his career, Anthony Hopkins is mesmerising both as the exorcist and the man who becomes possessed. Whether he’s bending his arms backwards and screaming for God’s mercy, tormenting Kovak or crying with his rosary in his hands, he is compelling and I couldn’t take my eyes of him.

The Rite

The one flaw I found with The Rite was that Colin O’Donoghue seems a bit out his depth here. There’s a noticeable lack in chemistry between him and the actors and with his presence as well, almost as if the part is too large for him, but this could also be the intention. As a character, Kovak seems like the kind of guy who has always remained on the sidelines and undefined but by the film’s chilling climax he throws himself both into the role of confirmed believer and exorcist with abandon.

The DVD release features over 10 minutes of deleted scenes. Although we don’t see that much of Rutger Hauer in the movie (he plays Kovak’s father), there’s more of him here.


Deleted Scenes (12.07)

  • My Vocation
  • Homeless Bus Man
  • Lucas and Michael Walk in the Rain
  • Angeline in Dormitory Hallway Double Nightmare

The Rite left me thinking about the nature of evil and how we define and treat possession. It’s fascinating and unsettling at the same time to know that there are true stories like this out there, it makes for an unquiet night’s sleep t the very least. At times we may think we know everything, but if we really did, what would we do?

As Father Lucas says, “You know, the interesting thing about sceptics, is that we’re always looking for proof… the question is, what on earth would we ever do if we found it?” Believers might say let’s hope they never find it.

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