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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Possession

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Matisyahu, Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kyra Sedgwick star in "The Possession."
Catholic exorcists get some time off with "The Possession" (Lionsgate). Since this mostly gore-free chiller's premise rests on Jewish tales of demonic indwelling by beings called dybbuks, it's a Hasidic student, rather than a priest, who eventually gets summoned to the rescue. And file this one under "Only in America": said scholar—Tzadok by name—is played by Hasidic rapper and reggae singer Matisyahu.

At the outset, recently divorced dad Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hardly knows what he's letting himself in for when he and his two daughters, Hannah (Madison Davenport) and Em (Natasha Calis), stop by a weekend yard sale. There, Em's fancy is taken by a seemingly innocuous wooden box and Clyde casually agrees to buy it for her.

Em's interest soon turns to life-blighting obsession as the dybbuk that was supposed to be trapped in the container forever emerges and instead takes up residence inside her. Logically enough, Clyde and his ex, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick), assume Em's deteriorating demeanor is an aftereffect of their split. But as eerie and inexplicable events continue to plague the family, Clyde at least realizes they'll need to turn to someone other than a therapist.

Danish-born director Ole Bornedal initially achieves above-average results with his macabre doings, which are ostensibly based on real events. But returns diminish noticeably as his film approaches its overwrought climax.

Clyde and Stephanie's situation is used as the vehicle for a strong pro-marriage message, however. In one poignant scene, Clyde watches as Stephanie and the girls sit down to dinner with Stephanie's boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). The quartet makes up a family circle from which Clyde feels both physically and emotionally excluded.

Another plus is the respectful treatment of the Jewish faith in Juliet Snowden and Stiles White's script, including Clyde's fervent recitation of the 91st Psalm at Em's bedside. Of course, the admixture of folklore, like that of the dybbuk, though necessary to the filmmakers' purpose, tends to blur the bright line between mere legend and revealed truth.

The film contains some violent and potentially disturbing images, a premarital situation, at least one use each of profanity and crude language and brief sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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