The creative process works in many ways. The earlier Romantic poets believed creation happened after taking a moment to reflect on the passion of inspiration while the later Romantics opted to run with their work fueled by the fire of their muse. When asked about Memory: The Origins of Alien, director Alexandre Phillipe said “There really isn’t much of a conscious thought process in terms of let’s try to strategize what the next movie is going to be, it seems to come organically.” This methodology is also evident in not only Phillipe’s direction, but also of his subject William Friedkin.
Phillipe’s documentary Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist focuses on the nature of filmmaking and the many moving parts of making a film come together. True to its title, Phillipe gives Friedkin the floor to elucidate on the instincts and influences that propelled him through the making of 1973’s The Exorcist.
The setting and setup for Leap of Faith is simple. William Friedkin sits in a chair and tells his story. Friedkin is a master storyteller and Phillipe gives him full reign to tell the story he wants to tell. Never pretentious and boldly uninhibited, Friedkin divulges the sources that awakened some of The Exorcist’s most iconic shots. From surreal artwork to classical music, Friedkin describes the process of incorporating those works into the film. He explains how the art develops some of the more haunting images of the film and says he wanted to use music that was “like a cold hand on the back of the neck.”
Having been a documentarian, Friedkin discusses the value of spontaneity over perfection and how he applies this theory to cinema. Phillipe rolls with Friedkin’s spontaneity as he bounces from numerous topics that culminate in his overall appraisal of the film.
Friedkin’s storytelling is intercut with scenes from classic films like The Best Years of Our Lives and Citizen Kane to illustrate various points he is putting forth. This is particularly impactful because it brings some concrete understanding to Friedkin’s poetic sometimes abstract ideas of “Rosebud moments.” In addition to the film scenes, Friedkin also discusses the importance of music for atmosphere and various pieces are heard throughout to emphasize this point.
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist will draw in filmmakers and film watchers alike. Friedkin’s anecdotes are funny and charming and he speaks lovingly about the profession and experience. Phillipe’s Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, but will begin streaming on Shudder on November 19th.
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