Deliver Us (Liberami)

 

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A film that invites a personal response (whatever that may be) from each and every viewer.

 
Deliver Us

  

It's not that rare to find documentary films that eschew any commentary and can aptly be described as observational. Indeed, just recently School Life provided an example of that. However, in the case of Federica Di Giacomo's Deliver Us set in Sicily, the subject matter is such that this approach raises questions about the filmmaker's aims.

 

The issue at the heart of Deliver Us is exorcism as practised today and, although other priests appear alongside distressed folk who turn to the Catholic church for help, the prime focus is on Father Cataldo Migliazzo. There can be but little doubt that in agreeing to be filmed he thought that his extreme commitment to exorcism would make him come across as a true holy man of God. Nevertheless, you don't have to be anti-religious to feel that the film's opening quote from the book of Job about Satan roaming the earth belongs to a past age. What confronts the viewer here is a man who, sufficiently famous to attract queues of disturbed people seeking his help, offers exclusively spiritual answers to psychological issues. He really does believe that Satan is inside these people and must be brought out, and the fact that Satan got in to them in the first place he ascribes not necessarily to their own weaknesses but to the unchristian lives of their parents.

 

To make matters even more disturbing, written statements at the close of the film indicate that in many countries today exorcisms are on the increase. Indeed Deliver Us opens a window on to an astonishing element in contemporary life. A commentary could have given a clearer view of this including information as to the extent to which Catholics generally embrace this ritual. Only once do we hear of failed psychological help preceding a woman's reliance on what the Church offers. But, if a wider view is missing, we do get to follow a number of those who visit Father Cataldo and one in particular gives us insight into this strange phenomenon. A young man, tattooed and adorned with metal rings, suffers from outbursts and takes drugs while receiving no help from his mother or so it would seem and being rejected by his girlfriend. Consequently, such is his desperation that, despite claiming to lack religious belief, he turns to Father Cataldo as the only source of hope left.

 

Deliver Us does not exclude the possibility that some of the possessed cultivate that image to attract attention, and it is entirely deadpan in showing us Father Cataldo carrying out exorcisms over the telephone. In another scene he brandishes the cross like a weapon. At the close the film moves briefly to Rome to record a conference of exorcists, but what Federica Di Giacomo thinks about all of this remains an open question. What is crystal clear is that this is a film about those who really do believe in Satan and it shows us where that takes them.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Father Cataldo Migliazzo.

 

Dir Federica Di Giacomo, Pro Francesco Virga, Screenplay Federica Di Giacomo and Andrea Sanguigni, Ph Greta de Lazzaris and Carlo Sisalli, Ed Aline HervĂ© and Edoardo Morabito.

 

MIR Cinematografica production/RAI Cinema/Opera Films/France 3 Via Stella-Network Releasing.
94 mins. Italy/France. 2016. Rel: 27 October 2017. Cert. 15.