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Film / The Rite

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Two exorcists meet in Rome. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Father Lucas: The interesting thing about sceptics, atheists is that, uh, we're always looking for proof. Certainty. Question is, what on Earth would we do if we found it?

A 2011 movie based on Matt Baglio's book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. It follows a reluctant, sceptical exorcist.

It stars Colin O'Donoghue as Michael, a young seminarian who is doubting his faith, and Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas, the experienced but cynical priest who trains him and lets him observe an exorcism of a teenage girl. Then things take a turn for the worse…

This Film Contains Examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Like Sir Anthony himself, Father Lucas Trevant is Welsh.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Gary Thomas becomes Michael Kovak, Father Carmen becomes Father Lucas Trevant and Matt Baglio's avatar is Angelina Vargas.
  • Artistic License – Religion: According to Catholic canon law, an exorcism may only be performed by an ordained priest (or higher prelate) with specific permission from their bishop, including consultation with a medical doctor. Michael hasn't been ordained yet, so he should not be attempting exorcisms. Apparently in this case the power of faith is enough for him to defeat the demon, but it's still definitely not recommended.
  • As Longas It Sounds Foreign: Michael's father, Istvan whispers the Hungarian words "szerelmem, virágom, gyönyörűségem" (my love, my flower, my bliss) while preparing the body of her deceased wife for the funeral, and the possessed Father Lucas repeats these words as well. Hauer and Hopkins are moderately successful in pronouncing the tongue-twisting words.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is a dramatised, troped-up recount of the experiences of Father Gary Thomas, a modern exorcist, from his own training. To that end, Father Thomas and Matt Baglio were the main consultants.
  • Big Bad: Ba'al. He's a high-ranking demon who delights in causing as much anguish as physically and emotionally possible. To that end, he goes through an entire chain of possessions and dark deeds, just to cause Michael and Lucas pain. To boot, he implied to have possessed Rosaria's father to rape and then possess her and then murders her and her baby; in consequence, Lucas' grief at his failure leaves his defences down so Ba'al could possess the priest. He also insinuates that he has a hand in the stroke that killed Michael's father Istvan and having taken the man's soul to hell just to taunt Michael.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Native speakers can recognize the three Hungarian words whispered by Michael's father and later repeated by the the possessed Father Lucas: "Szerelmem, virágom, gyönyörűségem." (My love, my flower, my bliss.) Also, the Kovaks' surname sounds very much like a corrupted version of Kovács (it's one of the most prevalent surnames among Hungarians, and it means means forger or smith). Also-also, Michael's father has one of the most common Hungarian given names, István.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Granted, the main characters are Catholic priests and most of the film takes place around the Vatican.
  • Crisis of Faith: Michael, although he's a priest-in-training, doubts the existence of God. Father Lucas counsels him that he sometimes doubts his own faith, especially when he's unable to help someone. This comes back in full force for him after Rosaria dies, to the point that the demon Baal is able to possess him.
  • Demonic Possession: It is a film about exorcists after all.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Michael entered seminary despite being a skeptic because he thought it would be an easy way to get a free education and he can just drop out before taking his vows. Come to find out, Michael's scholarship is only funded if he goes on to become a priest; if he drops out from service altogether (at that point, he's already ordained as a deacon), then the Church has no reason to cover his $100,000 student debt from the (apparently) very elite, private St. Osmund's College.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Very, very hammy, especially when Ba'al possesses Father Lucas.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ba'al. Its somewhat insane rants are always delivered in a faux-friendly and familiar tone. He's also a Consummate Liar, as he himself and Father Lucas point out.
  • Friend to All Children: Father Lucas. One of his house call patients is a young boy who owns a possessed pillow; this causes him trouble with a demon mule that besieges him in his dreams; Lucas handles the boy explicitly gently. It thus serves as red flag that something is really wrong when Ba'al has possessed him and uses his body to strike a little girl that asks him to bless her doll, something the later on momentarily lucid Lucas remembers vaguely as having done something horrible.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Matthew (the Father Superior of St Osmund's College seminary), Father Lucas and eventually Father Michael.
  • The Hero's Journey: The film's underlying arc is Michael's journey to recognize his Calling into the priesthood, and towards finding his faith (again).
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his rather adamant stance on secularism, Michael's innate kindness and charity has him not hesitating giving a girl that was run over by a van the Prayer for the Dying (the Extreme Unction usually known as Last Rites); this convinces Father Matthew, the Father Superior of the seminary, to try and change Michael's mind about not joining the priesthood by sending him to Rome. This is echoed at the end of the film when he handles Father Lucas explicitly gently after purging a demon from him.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The main character is an apprentice priest who doesn't actually believe in God (he joined the seminary to get a free college degree and get away from his small town life). Even after he sees a girl possessed by demons who speaks in tongues, contorts her body into impossible positions, and changes her voice completely, along with her vomiting up three forge-made nails that would have been used in Roman times for crucifixion (or shipbuilding), he still claims it was just a hoax to cover up her being molested.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Ba'al's reaction to Michael finding his faith and its metaphorical flame is to flinch, stagger backwards and go to his knees as if burnt.
  • Hollywood Exorcism:
    • The film plays this straight, albeit in a more subdued manner than usual, and lampshades it by having the exorcist joke about projectile vomit head spinning.
      Father Lucas: What did you expect, pea soup and head spinning?
    • Father Lucas also points out the very Real Life fact that spiritual liberation can take months and even years.
    • It's also shown that the Hollywood-style exorcism is of the rare kind, as these are usually battles with higher-ranking demons, much like Big Bad Ba'al, who is an Archonnote .
  • Humanoid Abomination: Every possessed person.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: A sixteen-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by her father, causing a demon to possess her. During her exorcisms, the demon causes her body to do very disturbing and unnatural things. She is later sent to the hospital where both she and the fetus are killed by the demon.
  • In Mysterious Ways: Ba'al, Angelina and Father Lucas all imply that Michael has all along been pushed by God towards the confrontation with the demon to find his faith and accept his Calling.
  • Large Ham: Anthony Hopkins is in true form here. Especially as the demon, Ba'al.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Father Xavier explains the basics of exorcism in lectures at the beginning of the film.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: Father Lucas. Despite being one of the most experienced exorcists around, he discusses the subject rather cynically; he also struggles at times with his faith, and yet he just keeps going.
  • Mentor Archetype: Also Father Lucas. While he's rather annoyed at first with Michael's unbelief, he still keeps instructing him in the rite, never quite giving up on the young man who reminds him of himself. It all pays off when Ba'al uses his sense of failure and grief at Rosaria's death to possess him, as eventually, Michael finds his faith and uses all he has learnt from him to defeat the Archon, exorcising Ba'al from Lucas' body.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Michael Kovak, as in, Archangel Michael, He-who-smited-the-Lightbringer. Fittingly, he is an apprentice exorcist who thus battles demons manifesting in the visible world.
    • Also, Father Lucas. The Evangelist Lucas was also a medical doctor, much like Father Lucas is both a priest and a doctor.
  • Motor Mouth: Father Lucas Trevant.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The demon Ba'al terrorizes Michael until he believes that the devil is real, but this convinces Michael that therefore God must also be real, and his newfound faith enables him to exorcise the demon.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The phone call Michael gets from his deceased father is... not reassuring. Not to mention terrifyingly vague.
    Istvan: Michael... they're hurting me...
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression on Ba'al's face when he realizes that Michael has accepted God and his Calling … and thus is an actual danger.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Michael finds that his room is full of frogs, (a sign of possession) he mutters out a "You gotta be fucking kidding me!"
  • Pride: Ba'al's desire to be recognized by Michael is what leads to his downfall.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The mule. Yes, a demonic mule appears in this movie.
  • Renaissance Man: Father Lucas Trevant, who is not only a priest (and thus by definition, a theologian) but also a medical doctor. This comes in handy as it allows him to operate as an exorcist alone (by Canonical law, exorcisms require a doctor to be present).
  • Say My Name: An option of the Great Rite of Exorcism is to force the demon in question to say their own name so the priest knows them, therefore invoking the power of command over the demon (the literal meaning of "exorcism" is "binding by name"). Ba'al eventually reveals his to Michael in hamtastic glory in the climax, thus admitting defeat.
  • Surreal Horror: The demonic vision.
  • Villain Baal: Ba'al is revealed as the name of the demon.