SUNDANCE 2020 FILM REVIEW! Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary Leap of Faith delivers a luxuriant, poetic conversation with director William Friedkin walking through the creative process that resulted in his renowned 1973 magnum opus The Exorcist. Insights into the craft of filmmaking and the serendipity (or not) that shapes art permeate the conversation, shining a light on the determination, precision artistic synthesis, and unflagging engine of a visionary director intent on making his film his way.
Phillipe’s extraordinary intuition into cinema gives him a knack for driving out unique and fascinating details of works that one would have said had already been analyzed to saturation. He goes deeper into themes and craft than has been covered before, succinctly avoiding the overly technical or pedantic. While accessible to anyone with an interest in behind-the-scenes aspects of films, the director’s explorations are next-level ambrosia for cinephiles. The perfect collaboration of Phillipe working with Friedkin is a benefaction to be savored.
“…director William Friedkin walking through the creative process that resulted in his renowned 1973 magnum opus The Exorcist.”
From his director’s statement, Phillipe told Friedkin, “I’d like to use the Hitchcock-Truffaut interview model, and unpack your process over several days, but focus exclusively on The Exorcist.” What he got was a subject so articulate, so composed, and focused, that the interviewer is rarely heard speaking. Friedkin shares his approach and the experience of making The Exorcist with a clarity and immediacy that erases the nearly 50 years since the film was made.
Traversing the vicissitudes of the experience includes tales of negotiating with novelist William Blatty on moving his prose to film, and the unexpected challenge of casting the right actor to play Father Karras (ultimately choosing Jason Miller, who was exactly the right actor). There are dozens of other anecdotes that are prompted by his memory of making the film, and the context of 1970’s Hollywood.