Although in the documentary Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist Friedkin is the only on-camera subject interviewed, the film is riveting stuff throughout its 104-minute running time. The director gives a master class on filmmaking while providing a behind-the-scenes account of what is inarguably one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Director Alexandre O. Philippe (who helmed the incredible and highly recommended 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene) conducts a sit-down interview with Friedkin, who plainly and boldly speaks about the singular mindset he had for The Exorcist, from marking up a hardback copy of William Peter Blatty’s source novel so he could convey exactly what he wanted for the film, through the arduous process of getting the film rolling on production, to anecdotes about how he got the actors to give the terrific performances they did in certain scenes, to the film’s enduring legacy. It’s interesting to also hear who and what didn’t appear in the film, including a rejected soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin.
Friedkin is a masterful storyteller whether as a director or as an interview subject. In Leap of Faith, he gives such intriguing takes on everything that you don’t mind if you have heard some of his anecdotes before. He also offers some touching philosophy and world views. His recalling of a trip to Japan decades ago serves as a true lump-in-the-throat takeaway.
Philippe is a prolific documentarian who focuses on the world of cinema, and here he crafts something that is much more than a mere director’s commentary. He intersperses clips and behind-the-scenes photos from The Exorcist to illustrate many of Friedkin’s points, and also offers up some beautiful images to accompany Friedkin’s heartfelt waxings.
I have deliberately avoided giving away the secrets that unfold as Friedkin discusses The Exorcist with Philippe so that viewers may come away with as many jaw-dropping surprises and new pieces of information as I did. Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist is essential viewing for The Exorcist fans, horror movie fanatics, and cinephiles of all stripes. This treat of a film sees a powerful, legendary director sharing his knowledge with all of us by way of one of today’s top cinema-focused documentary directors.
Leap of Faith screens at South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, which runs July 9-16.