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The Negligent Manslaughter of Emily Rose

Posted by Ben on Saturday, December 03, 2005 | Permalink

This film is based on a true story.

Gah. The only film I'm willing to allow to use a variation on that line is Fargo, and that's because they were taking the piss. Otherwise, if a film claims to be based on a true story, it's dollars to donuts they've taken the bare bones of a real life occurence and amped up the more fantastical, mythical and crowd-pleasing elements, or made stuff up entirely. There's nothing wrong with that - inspiration has to come from somewhere - but do they have to claim that it's based on fact? The statement implies a whole lot more than 'I read about this and had a cracking idea'.

From what I've read - I admit I haven't seen it - The Exorcism of Emily Rose is quite reasonable in the description of the real girl's behaviour, if a little devoted to 'The Exorcist' style of get-thee-out-Satan shenanigans. On the courtroom side of things, however, there's an injection of supernatural happings during the trial to spice things up, which is where the 'based on a true story' annoyance comes in.

Anyway. The story this film is based on is that of Anneliese Michel, from Leiblfing, Germany. Suffering from seizures and hallucinations, she was deemed possessed and the Bishop of Wurzburg authorised biweekly exorcisms, which lasted for nearly a year until she died. Forensic evidence indicated that the cause of death was starvation, and her parents and the exorcists were convicted of negligent manslaughter.

Evidently Anneliese was suffering the worst delusions, but what about those others, that indulged in the fantasy of possession and contributed to her death? 'The absurdity and danger of religious beliefs'? Right here. I'm reminded of an even worse case where a Romanian priest ordered the crucifixion of a nun because he believed her to be possessed. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the article is this comment:

"I don't know what this young woman did."

What she did was this:

"she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation"

Obviously she was just begging to be gagged and crucified, and there's some of the biggest dangers of religion: the use of it and the respect it is granted to justify atrocities - just how much of this case is down to his beliefs and how much is it straight-up murder with religion as a cover? - and the way blind faith can lead someone to commit them with what they see as the best intentions. If he's not yer standard killer, this clown actually thinks he's done her a favour.

Update: Just had a gander on the BBC, and found this update - Sister Cornici's body has been exhumed to perform a second autopsy at the request of the defendants, who want to find the 'real causes of the death'. It also mentions that Cornici was believed to suffer from schizophrenia, and that whilst the nuns involved in the exorcism protested because she was denied water during her exorcism, they had all obeyed the priest. Respect, authority, the 'because I said so' problem. A bunch of idiots and one utter bastard.

Some info on Anneliese Michel from
Info on Sister Cornici from Pharyngula.

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