Hans-Christian Schmid fictionalizes the real-life story of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who died of exhaustion and starvation after a series of attempted exorcisms in the mid ’70s. (It’s the same story that inspired last year’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose.) The epileptic Michaela Klinger (played by a Claire Danes–esque Sandra Hüller, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at this year’s Berlin Film Festival for her role here) leaves her small-town German home for college despite protestations from her severe, overprotective mother (Imogen Kogge). She’s a typical first-year student, exuberant in her freedom and unnerved by it, and in the end it seems to be too much for her, as her epilepsy advances into hallucinatory fits. She rejects medicine and seeks out the Church; a young priest convinces her that there are demons in her head. Hüller’s performance — her jerky gestures, her shrieks, her strained neck, her eerie calm — carries the film: as martyr and victim, she’s horrifying and convincing.
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