EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING

USA, 2004, 114 min.

director.gif (905 bytes) Renny Harlin

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård - Father Lankester Merrin
James D'Arcy - Father Francis
Izabella Scorupco - Sarah
Remy Sweeney - Joseph
Andrew French - Chuma
Julian Wadham - Major Granville

THEATRE RELEASE

20 August 2004  [USA]

Distributed by Warner Bros.

BASED ON THE STORY BY

William Wisher, Jr. & Caleb Carr

WITH SCREENPLAY BY

Alexi Hawley

 

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SYNOPSIS

Father Lankester Merrin thinks that he has glimpsed the face of Evil. In the years following World War II, he is relentlessly haunted by memories of unspeakable brutality perpetrated against the innocent people of his parish. In the wake of all he has seen, both his faith in his fellow man and his faith in the Almighty have deserted him. He can no longer honestly call himself a man of God.

Merrin has traveled far from his native Holland in a desperate attempt to escape the horrors that he witnessed there. While drifting through Cairo, he is approached by a collector of rare antiquities to join a British archeological excavation in the remote Turkana region of Kenya. They have unearthed a Christian Byzantine church in inexplicably pristine condition – as if it had been buried on the day it was completed. The collector wants Merrin, an Oxford-educated archeologist, to find an ancient relic hidden within the church before the British discover it.


But beneath the church, something much older sleeps, waiting to be awoken. Madness descends upon the local villagers and the contingent of British soldiers sent to guard the excavation. Merrin watches helplessly as the atrocities of war are repeated against another innocent village – atrocities he had prayed never to see again. The blood of innocents flows freely on the East African plain, and the horror has only just begun.

IMAGES

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button_box.gif (205 bytes)Visit film page for  Paul Schrader's Exorcist: The Original Prequel

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Praise for Stellan's performance:

"It's clear that at some point, someone intended to make a movie worthy of the original, and scattered elements of that dream remain intact. Exorcist: The Beginning works with a blasphemous yet surprisingly decent script ('God is not here today, priest.' 'Sometimes I think the best view of God is from hell.') and an able cast led by the brooding Skarsgård."  ...San Francisco Chronicle

"To be fair, Skarsgård does Von Sydow proud, and Vitorrio Storaro's (Apocalypse Now) cinematography is typically gorgeous."    ...Kansas City Star

"Merrin's faith-cracking run-in with Nazis is powerfully told in flashbacks, and the always terrific Skarsgård seems to carry the man's guilt and sense of betrayal on his shoulders." ...NY Daily News

"Mr. Skarsgård delivers a dutiful performance as the once and future priest, while Izabella Scorupco brightens several scenes as a concentration-camp survivor trying to cope with her ordeal."   ...Dallas Morning News

"Skarsgård is an appealing presence and though we see few manifestations of Merrin's crisis of faith, the actor approaches the material with a gamester's professionalism. The theological notions are downplayed, but they're still present, and give the film a genuine subtext to chew on. Harlin makes some decent comparisons between the otherworldly presence menacing the dig, and more earthly evils like the Holocaust that robbed Merrin of his God or the racism of colonial Kenya."    ...Flipside Movie Emporium

"Exorcist: The Beginning is elevated from mediocrity only by the steadying presence of Skarsgård. His nuanced portrait of a man tortured by his past dovetails beautifully with von Sydow's somber, aged Merrin. Skarsgård's measured, moving work is also the only touch of humanity in an otherwise soulless spectacle."    ...Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"A terrific-looking film - as you'd expect from anything shot by Storaro - and sometimes even a reasonably well-acted one. Merrin is played by von Sydow's fellow Swede and Ingmar Bergman stage company alumnus Skarsgård, and it's a surprisingly good choice, as are the angelic-faced Scorupco and Sweeney. Skarsgård suggests the kind of torment, angst and horrible illumination that shape the elderly Merrin; we can imagine him aging into von Sydow."      ...Chicago Tribune

"To be fair, this isn't quite the Golden Turkey it might have been. But that's only due to Skarsgård's steady-on performance and the peculiarly engaging visuals that Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, One From the Heart) creates out of all the chaos."  ...Atlantic Journal and Constitution

"Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård brings the only dignity to the film as a young Father Lankester Merrin played by Max Von Sydow in the original."    ...Boston Herald

"Stellan Skarsgård ably steps into the shoes of Max Von Sydow as the young Merrin and he makes the film seem more distinguished than it actually is."   ...The Manila Times

"To highlight the film’s good points, Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting) does a very nice job picking up the role originated by Max von Sydow. Max von Sydow’s portrayal of Father Merrin gave a lot for Skarsgård to work with as an actor.. Skarsgård captivates the screen when he is on it and you can easily get lost in his scenes. Merrin only bookended the original; here we get to see him in action. This is his movie. Scorupco and Skarsgård do have good chemistry, which makes the film’s climax a treat to watch. The two won’t get any notoriety from this project, but at least they made it watchable."...Cinema Blend

"Skarsgård manages to maintain a dignified bearing."    ...The Orlando Sentinel

"Stellan Skarsgård is quite impressive as the struggling Merrin and it is his performance that accents a lot of the credibility housed in this film. You can see this man’s pain and how he conflicts with everything he witnesses. Even in the attraction scenes with the younger Scorupco, Skarsgard doesn’t allow his character to find any raw emotion."  ...Celebrity Cafe

"Skarsgård, for his part, puts in a decent performance. He's always pretty good, whether he's doing an impossible combination of camp and complexity in a big-budget American film like King Arthur, or just laying low in an arty Danish avante garde number like Dogville or Dancer in the Dark."    ...Tucson Weekly

"Though Harlin doesn't do much with the material, Skarsgård (King Arthur, Good Will Hunting) gives Exorcist: The Beginning its only brush with credibility. The script calls on Merrin to do some pretty foolhardy things - crawling into a tiny cave after Satan being one - but Skarsgård makes it seem less improbable."     ...The Arizona Republic

"Stellan Skarsgård masterfully fills the shoes of Max Von Sydow's portrayal thirty-one years ago. Skarsgård is sympathetic without pushing it, flawed without being unlikable, and emotionally riveting as the conflicted Father Merrin. The tragic flashbacks to Holland during WWII are naturally integrated into the main story and quite effective, helping to externalize an internal battle. As Sarah, Izabella Scorupco fulfills her limited role with self-confidence and shares some nice moments of low-key chemistry with Skarsgård." ...Dustin Putman (The Movie Boy)

"This is one solid and visually strong film and manages to actually be the best sequel of the series and a worthy entry thanks to Skarsgård's steady performance, lots of gruesome moments, a finale that's pretty decent, and some good creepy mood at times." ...Video Graveyard

"It's Skarsgård who keeps us riveted even as the plot unravels in a series of anti-climaxes... And his face-off with Lucifer's latest plaything, who can levitate, blaspheme with forked tongue and skitter up the walls like a spider? That's devilishly clever, and should be at once unnerving to new converts and nostalgic for the ever-faithful." ...Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

"Check it out for the sometimes-awesome cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and the great performances from Skarsgård and Scorupco.   ...Toronto Film Can

"From an acting standpoint, it is a solid effort, as the versatile Skarsgård brings a full range of emotion to the part. Skarsgård’s Merrin, who was played by fellow Swede Max von Sydow in the original, is a thoughtful portrait of a soul in crisis. If only the rest of the movie matched him.  ...Worcester Magazine

"If there was anything good about the movie, it was Skarsgård. Somehow, the choice of him playing the tortured and brooding Father Merrin was totally fitting, and that voice of his was as brooding as it can get."   ...Cinema Online

"Skarsgård is reliably watchable, which only reinforces the regret over what might have been had this actor been handed a script worthy of his talents." ...The Straits Times (Singapore)

"The always terrific Skarsgård is the only cast member who brings dignity and conviction to the film, effortlessly capturing the torment of his personal demons and crisis of faith. ..Also stunningly shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.  ...Singapore's Electric New Paper

"Skarsgård delivers an expectedly stellar performance - effectively channeling von Sydow's distinct persona. It's highly unlikely he had as little to do in Schrader's version, which presumably focused more on Merrin's struggle to regain his faith."   ...Reel Film Reviews

"The positive assets are few and far between, though the always-excellent Mr. Skarsgård brings a gravity to the proceedings."   ...Efilmcritic.com

"Stellan Skarsgård brings dignity, gravity and complexity to the role of Father Merrin."  ...The Spinning Image

"Harlin builds palpable dread (tempered somewhat by Trevor Rabin’s oppressive score), and Skarsgård effortlessly captures Merrin’s dissipation and loss of faith."  ...Film Threat

"Taking over a role originally intended for Liam Neeson, the reliably good Skarsgård  gives the film what little emotional credibility it has as the troubled former priest."   ...Reel.com

"There's a lot wrong with this picture, but there are also a few things right with it. The cinematography by the legendary Vittorio Storaro is so atmospheric, the dust motes practically float off the screen. The score, by former Yes member Trevor Rabin, alternates between subtle and stirring. The star, Stellan Skarsgård (who's one of my all-time faves) is an actor who was magnificent in movies like Insomnia and Good Will Hunting - and he was the best thing in King Arthur earlier this year."   ...TV Wire

"Skarsgård is the best thing about the movie. He gives us a conflicted, believable Merrin, and a reason to follow the predictable storyline to its conclusion."   ...Lawrence.com

"Set in post-World War II Africa, the story follows a dis-illusioned, faithless Merrin (a well-cast Stellan Skarsgård) as he joins an archaeological dig to excavate an ancient church buried in the desert."    ...Winston-Salem Journal

"Skarsgård, so good in Breaking the Waves and the original Insomnia, does what he can to apply shadings to the Merrin character, while Storaro (an Oscar winner for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor catches some sumptuous images of the African landscape.  ...Salt Lake Tribune

"On the positive side, Stellan Skarsgård and Izabelle Scorupco are good in their thankless roles."  ...Entertainment Insiders

"Fortunately, there’s little wrong with any of the acting in Exorcist: The Beginning, especially where Stellan Skarsgård’s strong performance is concerned."   ...Reel Talk Reviews

"As the worn-out warrior of the cloth, Skarsgård is effective in his haggard interpretation of the Oxford-educated Father Merrin with the distinctive sense of psychological detachment."   ...The World Journal

"Skarsgård does a solid job in showing the man’s daily anguish and his ongoing struggle between belief and not."  ...Reeling Reviews

"Stellan Skarsgård does the tortured character well and is perfect for the younger Merrin and a worthy successor to Max von Sydow as the senior Merrin."    ...Movie Crypt

"He (Renny Harlin) is, however, a visual storyteller and good with actors like the brooding Skarsgård."   ...Detroit Free Press

"One thing is canny in the otherwise lightweight cast: the conviction of Skarsgård, who even looks like von Sydow in some shadowy shots."  ...Tribune-Review

"The acting in the film is impressively well done... Skarsgård is believable as Merrin."  ...Mercury Register

"Under the circumstances Skarsgård, a fine actor, does what he can, bringing a hint of dissolute dignity to Merrin."  ...One Guy's Opinion


button_box.gif (205 bytes)Best line: "God is not here today, priest."


button_box.gif (205 bytes)Read article - Exorcist: The Beginning, a story of Hollywood possession

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Read more ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Read several "Exorcist" interviews with Stellan in the Press Section.