Documentary Releases: Leap of Faith - William Friedkin on The Exorcist (2020) - Reviewed

The newly released Shudder original documentary film Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist from the outset looked like another Mark Kermode documentary ala The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist.  In actuality the film is a one-on-one interview with Friedkin in his home and as such as much closer to the 2017 documentary Friedkin Uncut or the recent documentary De Palma 

Functioning more as a career retrospective than going through much of what we already know about The Exorcist, Leap of Faith is like having a cup of coffee with the great director and encompasses his own influences, personal cinematic obsessions and finally making some kind of Zen peace with what his most famous and successful film does or doesn’t really mean.

Though the film intercuts between scenes from various films throughout Friedkin’s career, much of the film consists of the camera trained on Friedkin whose memory is as sharp as ever and remains a formidable personality even in older age.  At one point Friedkin reminisces about an interview he conducted with Fritz Lang where Lang reportedly said one of the most influential things in all of Friedkin’s career. 
As with his commentaries included on the DVDs and Blu-Rays of his previous films, Friedkin talks a mile a minute, at times leaping from topic to topic but never losing the viewer’s interest for even a second.  That Friedkin admits some aspects of the film to him now are indeed very flawed, clearly he understands the depths of the wake the film left on unsuspecting moviegoers in 1973.

Leap of Faith won’t change anyone’s minds about where they stand with The Exorcist, a film which is still profoundly disturbing yet asks almost as many existential questions as an Ingmar Bergman film.  Mostly it’s time well spent with a legendary filmmaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of art, film and music.  That the process of making the film cost him a few friendships including but not limited to the great composers Bernard Herrmann and Lalo Schifrin, both of whom were commissioned scores that ultimately were not used in The Exorcist, is somewhat poignant to hear. 
Most poignant of all comes a sequence near the end where Friedkin addresses solitude in the modern world.  For a filmmaker as confrontational as Friedkin, hearing him speak about his own place in the world was kind of touching.  In any event, Leap of Faith is an interesting extended interview with one of the greatest directors of the 1970s talking about the film which made him a household name.

--Andrew Kotwicki