An additional interpretation of
by Seamus Conlon
(received March 31st 2008)
For me, The Exorcist is an elaborate, horrific and most of all, psychosomatic allegory to adolescence. There are many parts of her possesion that symbolise this:
- Projectile vomiting = bulimia
- Regan's emaciation = anorexia
- Use of strong language = (something commonly discovered and used in
- Masturbation = discovering of sexuality
Amongst all this, we are given a clue by one of the doctors in the meeting with Ellen Burstyn about Regan: he says that people who believe in the power or exorcism, and think that they are 'possessed' by a demonic presence, are likely to be psychosomatically healed by the experience. Father Karras also says, in a conversation to Ellen Burstyn, that Exorcism is no longer in use because of scientific evidence against it, and goes on to list several mental conditions.
The film's characters are giving Ellen Burstyn, as well as the audience, an analogy for we, the viewer, and Burstyn to solve the problem: Regan's state has been misinterpreted as pure evil rather than the troubles of adolescence. Often parents or other adults see the symptoms of teenagers as being simply pure immaturity. It has since been proven that hormones often break down and rebuild during the teenaged years, becoming a bit of a mental condition itself.
As well as this, Father Karras does not seem hugely shocked when he first walks into Regan's room - perhaps at this moment, he is seeing her as simply a confused and plagued teenager. But when she remarks on the fact that she (may) know that Father Karras's Mother is dead, Karras, though trying to put on a straight face and trying to boycott the idea that Regan might have some kind of supernaturally acquired knowledge of his mothers death, is psychosomatically affected, so that he translates her possible bulimia as a deliberately aimed and timed missile of vomit.
The biggest give-away in the film is the fact that Regan's 13th birthday is coming up and happens during the film; and the fact that adults appear to almost never say that she is '13' could be their continued treating of Regan as a child, something quintessential of parents during their children's adolescence.
Overall, the film a simply a brilliantly devised cinematic exercise in psychophysiology, where we are the victims of psychosomatic illness, not Regan - the ingenious aspect of it is that we do not realise that we were experiencing a possibly hallucinatory version of the film's real events. Regan's symptoms are consistently viewed as 'unexplainable', until psychophysiology falls into the equation. The Exorcist has been referred to as the scariest film ever made more than any film ever made, consistently topping poles, and has aquired this almost infamous reputation by its realistic, bleak and gritty portrayal of supernatural events, but in this psychomatic context, it is just as terrifying - like a nightmare, you don't realise that it may not be real, and you cannot decide when it stops or starts.