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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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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